29 September 2023
Cartoonist Tawfiq Omrane is the subject of two complaints and is awaiting a court ruling.
On 25 September 2023, the cartoonist went to the Tunis 1 Court of First Instance to find out about the charges against him.
The cartoonist and his lawyer thought they were being summoned in connection with the cartoons, but were informed that the summons related to a judgement in absentia concerning a complaint about an unpaid cheque (in Arabic) for 291 dinars (around €80) dating from 2015.
In an interview with Diwan FM (in French) in which he confirmed that he had been the subject of a complaint for bounced cheques, Tawfiq Omrane explained that he had also been questioned about 4 cartoons.
At the end of the meeting, the cartoonist’s lawyer, Maître Ayachi Hammami, stated that he was lodging an objection (in French) to the judgement on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired, and that he was looking to the Ben Arous court to follow up the case relating to the “accusation of insulting others via social media sites” (for press cartoons).
The cartoonist confirmed the existence of two separate complaints and announced that the cartoon case had been transferred to the Ben Arous court on Tuesday 26 September. His lawyer has been notified of the transfer and both are waiting to hear whether the charges will be dropped or extended.
“Today, the caricature file has been transferred to the Bin Arous court awaiting preservation or appointment.”
On Friday 22 September, the Tunisian Prime Minister’s office explained in a statement published on social media (in Arabic) that he had “no knowledge” of the proceedings against Tawfiq Omrane, and that he had only learned of them “through the media”.
The Presidency then considered that if he was prosecuted because of a cartoon, the proceedings were “unjustified”, since freedom of creation was guaranteed “in the text of the Constitution of 25 July 2022”, before finally adding that he might have been heard in connection with a case (in French) of “bounced cheques”.
Over the weekend, many cartoonists and partner organisations expressed their support for the cartoonist through cartoon campaigns (see below).
Cartooning for Peace continues to monitor the case closely and reiterates its call for the prosecution to be dropped. The organisation reaffirms its support for the cartoonist.
22 September 2023
The famous Tunisian cartoonist Tawfiq Omrane was arrested because of his cartoon and a photomontage and then provisionally released.
Tawfiq Omrane, a member of Cartooning for Peace, was arrested (article in French) in the late afternoon of 21 September 2023 at his home before being taken to the headquarters of the Mégrine national security district (article in French) where he was questioned for 3 hours. Placed in detention at the Bouchoucha centre following this interrogation, he was finally released provisionally later that night. He is due to appear before the Tunis 1 Court of First Instance on Monday 25 September.
According to statements made by his lawyer (article in French), Ayachi Hammami, to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the cartoonist is accused of “harming others” on social media platforms. The two offending cartoons were published on 4 and 7 August on the cartoonist’s social media accounts, and were intended to poke fun at the recent appointment of Ahmed Hachani as head of government. According to Le Monde, “in a caustic tone, Tawfiq Omrane pointed out the lack of experience of the new occupant of the Kasbah as well as his limited prerogatives in relation to the Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed”.
Left cartoon: “I appoint the members of the government and you are the head of… the Kasbah (a pun on the word Kasbah, the head of government, and knucklehead).”
Right cartoon: “A pensioner filling his spare time with mocking publications suddenly finds himself head of government. Just goes to show, the times, they are a-wavin’!”
The Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens (SNJT) was quick to react to the arrest of cartoonist Tawfiq Omrane on 21 September, describing the investigation against him as “absurd, repressive and abusive”, and “damaging Tunisia’s image around the world”. Many Internet users shared Tawfiq‘s cartoons as a sign of support, and his arrest received massive media coverage.
Freedom of expression and of the press have steadily declined in Tunisia, which fell from 94th to 121st place out of 180 in the 2023 world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In 2022, Cartooning for Peace, like many others, was concerned by the publication of Decree-Law No. 2022-54 on “combating offences relating to information and communication systems”, which has since led to the arrest of several journalists.
His colleague -Z-, reminding that several journalists have been arrested, considers that “his arrest is yet another reminder that in Tunisia, a sword of Damocles hangs over anyone who dares to speak out against the rule of Kaïs Chékla the First”.
Recalling that satire is not a crime and expressing its solidarity with the cartoonist, Cartooning for Peace strongly condemns the conditions of his arrest and calls for the prosecution of the cartoonist to be dropped.
Cartoon: Willis from Tunis (Tunisia) – “Ouhlala… A dangerous caricaturist is damaging our image!” – (On the pile): poverty, migration crisis, inflation, unemployment, side economy, lack of important medicines, public debt, costly life, dirty money, water shortage, shortage of basic foods, ruined infrastructures, insecurity
📢 [ALERTE DESSINATEUR]#Tunisie@OmranCartoonist a été arrêté le 21 septembre 2023 à cause d’un dessin et d’un montage photographique. Il doit comparaître lundi 25 septembre devant le tribunal de Première instance de Tunis 1 : https://t.co/jiXwroNpUM
— Cartooning for Peace (@CartooningPeace) September 22, 2023