New York, May 18, 2023 – Tunisian authorities should immediately drop all charges against journalist Khalifa Guesmi and ensure he is not imprisoned for his work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Tuesday, May 16, an appeals court in Tunis sentenced Guesmi, a correspondent for the local independent radio station and news website Mosaique FM, to five years in prison on charges of disclosing national security information, according to a statement by Mosaique FM, news reports, and Mosaique FM reporter Hajer Tlili, a who spoke to CPJ. A lower court had previously sentenced him to one year in prison on the same charge.
Authorities alleged that Guesmi’s March 2022 reporting about the dismantling of a terrorist cell illegally disclosed information about government surveillance. On Thursday, the same court sentenced a police officer, whose name was not disclosed, to 10 years in prison for allegedly providing information to Guesmi for that reporting.
Guesmi remains free while his appeal is pending before a court of cassation, according to those sources.
“The punitive sentencing of journalist Khalifa Guesmi to five years in prison is a clear example of how Tunisian President Kais Saied’s government is targeting members of the press over their work,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Tunisian authorities must unconditionally drop all charges against Guesmi and allow journalists to work without fear of imprisonment.”
Guesmi was first arrested over his reporting on March 18, 2022, when authorities held him for one week and questioned him about his sources. A court of first instance sentenced him to one year in prison on November 29, 2022; his appeal resulted in Tuesday’s extended sentence.
CPJ emailed the Tunisian Ministry of Interior for comment on Guesmi’s case, but did not receive any response.