Tunisia: Trial of Nabil Karoui, owner of Nessma TV for broadcasting Persepolis

Regulation & Policy

The trial of Nabil Karoui, the owner of Tunisian channel Nessma TV, is scheduled to resume tomorrow, January 23rd. The trial will take place at the Justice Palace in the Kasbah of Tunis at 9:00 AM and will be broadcast live on Nessma TV.

Nearly 140 lawyers filed lawsuits against Karoui for “violating sacred values” and “disturbing public order” after his station broadcast a version of the French-Iranian film Persepolis dubbed in Tunisian dialect. A scene in Persepolis features a cartoon depiction of God, considered heretical to many Muslims that make up the overwhelming majority of Tunisian society.

The movie, aired on October 7th provoked members of Tunisia’s Salafist movement. In spite of Nabil Karoui’s apology, an angry mob torched his house on October 14th.

Amnesty International has called the trial a violation of freedom of expression. The human rights organization released a statement on January 21st asserting the Tunisian government must drop charges against the TV boss over the Persepolis broadcast. “Putting Nabil Karoui on trial simply for screening a film which shows fantasy scenes of God is a very troubling development,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s interim Director for Middle East and North Africa.

If convicted, Nabil Karoui may face up to three years in prison.