Eight Months in Jail for Facebook Post

Watch what you post on Facebook if you’re in Tunisia: It could cost you dearly.

A Tunis court imposed an eight-month jail sentence on 69-year-old academic and human-rights activist Khedija Arfaoui for posting a message on the social-networking website in May referring to widespread rumors about children being kidnapped in Tunisia for their organs, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Arfaoui was convicted July 4 for “disturbing public order.” She had no idea she was charged until reading in the newspapers May 31 that her trial was due to start June 6, having received no formal notification until the day before the trial. In addition, Arfaoui and her lawyers also found out about her verdict and sentence by reading it in the July 5 newspapers.

Reporters Without Borders said:

This conviction has no legal basis. Tunisia has no Internet laws, and this is the first time a Tunisian court has issued a decision concerning a Facebook post. All Arfaoui did was post an already-existing message. She was in no way responsible for starting the rumor. The authorities are just using her as a scapegoat. Her conviction must be quashed immediately.

One of Arfaoui’s lawyers added:

This case cannot be prosecuted because it is not covered by any law. If there is no law, there can be no crime. This conviction is senseless. The trail was staged in order to put a stop to the rumor.