PEN America Decries Shutdown of Tunisian TV Station Over Critical Poem
On-air host read anti-dictatorship poem and was arrested shortly thereafter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — Tunisian government officials this week shut down a television station after a host read aloud the poem The Ruler by Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar, acclaimed for his critical works about dictators from the Arab world. Zitouna talk show host Amer Ayad was arrested shortly thereafter. PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs Summer Lopez said the following:
“Reading a poem is no crime. Arresting a journalist and shutting down a media outlet because the government fears criticism, on the other hand, is a violation of the freedoms of expression and the press that were hard won in Tunisia’s revolution a decade ago. We call on Tunisian authorities to immediately release Amer Ayad and others unjustly detained, and in the face of these alarmingly anti-democratic moves in Tunisia, the international community must speak out and stand with those who are fighting back.”
President Kais Saied has asserted near-complete control over the country, suspending parliament and arresting journalists and lawmakers who oppose his rule.