Monday, July 13, 2009

8 Month Jail Sentence For Facebook Posting

Reporters Without Borders is condemning the eight-month jail sentence that a Tunis court has imposed on 69-year-old academic and human rights activist for posting a message on the social networking website Facebook. Khedija Arfaoui's May posting referred to widespread rumors about children being kidnapped in Tunisia for their organs.

Arfaoui has been convicted of “disturbing public order.” Under the law, “anyone stirring up rebellion by means of speeches in public places or meetings, or placards, posters or written texts is punishable as if they had participated in the rebellion.”

Reporters Without Borders that the conviction has no legal basis because Tunisia has no Internet laws. The free speech organization says this is the first time a Tunisian court has issued a decision concerning a Facebook post. The organization notes that Arfaoui posted an already-existing message and was not the originator of the rumor. "The authorities," Reporters Without Borders says in a statement, "are just using her as a scapegoat.”

Arfaoui learned from a newspaper article that she had been charged and her lawyers ere not allowed to see the prosecution case file. She and her lawyers did not know that a verdict and sentence had been issued until they read it in the newspapers.

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