Tunisian TV boss fined over Persepolis broadcast

Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 06-05-2012

A Tunisian court has fined the director of Nessma TV 2,400 dinars (US$1,500) for blasphemy in broadcasting the award winning Franco-Iranian film Persepolis last year.

Nabil Karoui had faced a maximum of three years in jail after being accused of insulting sacred Islamic values and disturbing public order, after the film was shown in its entirety – including a scene depicting God, forbidden in Islam.

The judgement, which was given on Thursday (4 May), came after a complaint was filed by almost 144 lawyers against the private station's chief and two other Nessma TV employees.

Journalists and activists have criticised the elected Tunisian Government for not enforcing media laws passed in November 2011, which amend the old Press Law passed by the repressive government of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

"On a day that is meant to celebrate world press freedom, Tunisia has shown its failure to respect the basic right of freedom of expression," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Nabil Karoui should not have been tried to begin with, let alone found guilty for exercising his right to peacefully express his views."

Nadia Jamal, head of the organization that dubbed the movie into Tunisian dialect, and Alhadi Boughanim, responsible for monitoring programmes, have also both been fined.

The trial began in January 2012 and was twice adjourned amid acts of violence by the extreme Salafi Islamic sect.

The transmission of Persepolis by Nessma TV on 7 October 2011 provoked anger and mass protests in Tunis. Karoui's home was firebombed the following week, despite a public apology from the station's boss.