Tunisia frees journalist Zied Heni after arrest for 'criticising penal code'

Tunisia frees journalist Zied Heni after arrest for 'criticising penal code'
Amid a wider crackdown on critical media and opposition figures, Tunisian journalist Zied Heni, who was arrested on Tuesday for criticising Tunisia's 'authoritarian' penal code, has been released.
1 min read
22 June, 2023
Up to 20 opposition figures have been arrested in Tunisia by the regime of President Kais Saied [Getty]

A Tunisian journalist arrested after criticising a law that criminalises insulting the head of state was released on Thursday.

Zied Heni, 59, was kept in custody after being questioned on Tuesday evening over alleged "crimes through telecommunications" channels, his lawyer said at the time.

The interrogation took place after Heni had mocked an article of the penal code related to criticising the head of state, currently President Kais Saied, during a morning broadcast on IFM radio station.

Heni emerged from court on Thursday morning to say the deputy public prosecutor had decided to let him go, but that investigations against him would continue.

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"If they think they can silence me, they're wrong," he told journalists.

The SNJT journalists' union had called Heni's arrest a "flagrant violation of the law".

In May, journalists staged a protest to denounce the Tunisian government's "repressive" policy, which they say uses the judicial system to intimidate and subjugate the media.

Around 20 journalists are being prosecuted for their work in the country, according to the union.

Non-governmental organisations have reported a decline in press freedom in Tunisia since Saied launched a power grab in July 2021.