Tunisia releases cartoonist detained for satirical drawings targeting PM

Tunisia’s public prosecutor released cartoonist Tawfiq Omrane on Friday after detaining him for several hours due to his satirical drawings lampooning the prime minister, raising concerns among advocates for free speech.

Omrane is widely recognized for his satirical cartoons featuring President Kais Saied, who consolidated nearly all powers two years ago by dissolving Tunisia’s elected parliament—a move criticized by the opposition as a coup.

“They interrogated me on suspicion of insulting the prime minister. They showed a drawing that they considered offensive”, Omrane told Diwan FM Tunisian radio.

Omrane vowed to persist in creating his satirical drawings.

“The police interrogated him (Omrane) for hours without the presence of lawyers on suspicion of insulting through social networks … over cartoons mocking the prime minister,” his lawyer, Anas Kadoussi, told media. Kadoussi said the cartoonist could face one year in prison if convicted.

Ahmed Hachani assumed the position of prime minister last month, succeeding Najla Bouden.

For many Tunisians, freedom of speech is considered a fundamental achievement following the 2011 revolution that led to the downfall of the dictatorial President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Activists, journalists, and politicians have raised concerns about the potential erosion of this freedom.

“Omrane’s arrest reinforces authorities’ efforts to suppress critical voices of the president,” said Amira Mohamed, a senior official at the country’s Journalists’ Syndicate.

Kais Saied delivered a vehement critique of state TV in a recent speech, which included his criticism of the way headlines were organized in a news bulletin, in a move that was labeled as “overt interference” by the Journalists Syndicate.

Throughout this year, the police have apprehended over 20 political figures, among them opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is the head of the Ennahda party. Some of these arrests were made on allegations of conspiring against state security.

Scroll to Top