Tunisian court fines TV boss on morality charges

Reuters News
Posted: May 03, 2012 12:14 PM
Tunisian court fines TV boss on morality charges

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court on Thursday fined a television boss 2,400 dinars ($1,550) for showing the award winning film "Persepolis" after a trial that deepened a growing divide between Islamists and secularists.

The court found Nabil Karoui, head of the Nessma private television station, guilty of disturbing public order and attacking moral values by broadcasting the animated film.

The French/American film, about a girl growing up in Iran, includes a scene depicting Allah, which is forbidden in Islam.

The fine was substantially less severe than the prison term that Karoui's Islamist opponents had been demanding. The charges carried a possible sentence of up to three years in prison.

The trial showed how, nearly 18 months after its revolution sparked the "Arab Spring" upheavals, Tunisia is struggling to balance religious sensitivities and freedom of expression.

Hardline Islamists, newly free to express their views after the revolution ended a ban on their activities, have become assertive in defending their faith and pushing for religion to have a bigger role in society.

They said the broadcast of "Persepolis" was an affront to Muslims and a deliberate provocation. Some Salafists, followers of an ultra-conservative school of Islam, have said the television boss should be executed.

The Islamists have clashed with secularists who believe the values of modernity and individual freedom that shaped Tunisia for the past half century must be preserved.

They saw the prosecution of Karoui as an attack on freedom of expression, a position echoed by rights groups including Amnesty International.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)