Writers from around the world accuse the EU of being complicit in Tunisian repression

A newly approved Tunisian law prohibits citizens to criticise the Tunisian government in front of other countries and organisations. A band of writers met in Barcelona to take a stand against this action.

CNA / Sarah Garrahan

June 18, 2010 06:12 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- A law will be approved this Tuesday which prohibits citizens of Tunisia to criticise their government amongst other foreign countries or organisations. Those who disobey this regulation could face prison sentences for up to five years. For this reason, the state of Magreb chose not to speak out during negotiation talks concerning an advanced statute with the European Union that would allow them to have privileged relations similar to those of Morocco. As a response to the unjust law, a band of writers has signed a manifesto in Barcelona condemning the Tunisian law. The document also presses the EU to suspend any and all negotiations that would strengthen its relations with Tunisia.

“If the European Union continues to negotiate with Tunisia, the EU is accepting the Tunisian silence. This is absolutely unacceptable for the citizens of Europe”, stated philosopher, writer and president of PEN International, John Rolston Saul. Saul has been in charge of the conference of the “Comitè de Traducció i Drets Lingüístics de Barcelona” (Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee) which took place this Thursday and Friday in the Residència d’Investigadors de Barcelona (Research Hall of Barcelona).

With this new Tunisian law “freedom of speech has all of the sudden become an act of espionage, something illegal”, stated Saul, who plans to travel to Brussels next week to demand an explanation on the issue.
 During his presentation, John Rolston Saul also referenced the Catalan language, elaborating on its violent history of repression during the Franco dictatorship. “Barcelona is a place where several tongues come together, helping Spain to become a country with four spoken languages”, said Saul.
Liberty of expression, the conjunction of language and linguistic diversity, cultural diffusion and the market have all come together in this conference. It is the second time the Catalan capital has hosted the committee.
Apart from prestigious philosopher Saul, the Kabyle writer Salem Zenia, the Mallorcan writer Biel Mesquida, the Norwegian writer Eugene Schoulgin and the Slovenian essayist and translator Simona Skrabek were also in attendance. Moreover, two acclaimed journalists also took part in the conference, Sihem Bensedrine and Rohdah Mashavave.