August 2023 | President Saied appoints new prime minister
On 1 August, President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Najla Bouden and appointed Ahmed Hachani as her replacement. Hachani, who previously served as the human resources director at Tunisia's central bank, steps into his role amid an escalating economic and social crisis in the country.
Saied has publicly expressed dissatisfaction with government officials and the deteriorating public services, including frequent water and electricity disruptions. Her dismissal, for which no official reason was given, coincided with rising shortages, especially of state-subsidised bread. Recent escalations in these shortages have raised concerns of potential civil unrest similar to the deadly bread riots in 1984. President Saied emphasized the urgent need to address these challenges to ‘safeguard the country, its institutions, and societal peace’.
July 2023 | Authorities relocate African migrants amid escalating racial tensions
Tunisia has been grappling with an unprecedented surge in migration, associated with leading to an increase in racially motivated harassment and violence against refugees. In early July, Tunisian security forces reportedly relocated an estimated 1,200 migrants, the majority from sub-Saharan Africa to remote regions near the borders with Libya and Algeria. The expulsions followed days of unrest in the city of Sfax where Tunisians had held protests against the presence of refugees and a local man was killed during the violent confrontations. Human Rights Watch raised concerns on 6 July about the dire humanitarian situation and serious migrant rights violations. Tunisian authorities responded by relocating hundreds of migrants from border areas to town shelters after criticisms surfaced about living conditions. However, there are reports of migrants who have died or are missing in these remote areas, with Libyan authorities finding several bodies on their border with Tunisia. In the first half of 2023, Tunisian authorities rescued over 15,000 migrants and recovered the bodies of 901 more who drowned off its coast, according to the country's Interior Minister.
June 2023 | Harassment of government critics raises concerns
In June, concerns over freedom of speech in Tunisia were heightened following the detention of prominent journalist, Zied El Heni. El Heni was taken into police custody on 21 June after criticizing the President and was accused of "crimes through telecommunications" channels but was released two days later. Concurrently, Tunisia has seen a wave of protests this month with demonstrators demanding the release of political prisoners. In view of these developments, the UN's Human Rights Chief has urged Tunisia to stop curbing media freedoms. Against this backdrop, the Parliamentary Bureau ruled on 15 June to prevent journalists from reporting on parliamentary committee gatherings. Subsequently, on 17 June, a judicial order was issued prohibiting media coverage of two cases related to alleged plots against state security, in which several political figures have been detained and prosecuted since February. Critics view these arrests and the media ban as attempts to silence opposition. Official statements indicate the ban was implemented to safeguard the privacy of individuals involved in the investigations.
May 2023 | Media rights and press freedom decline amid continued opposition clampdown
A series of events leading to investigations and arrests in May have raised concerns about press freedom and the continued crackdown on dissent in Tunisia. Senior opposition politician Rached Ghannouchi was sentenced to one year in prison on 15 May for ‘inciting terrorism’ following his arrest in April. The following day, prominent journalist Khalifa Guesmi's prison sentence was increased from one to five years, after he was convicted on charges related to his work for ‘disclosing national security information’. Also in May, several journalists were investigated and questioned by the police over their comments on security forces. Responding to these developments, journalists and citizens demonstrated in Tunis between 18 and 22 May calling for press freedom. Since 31 May, the judiciary has opened new probes into 20 political figures suspected of ‘conspiring against state security’, including Ghannouchi (despite his ongoing detention), and former prime minister Youssef Chahed. Local and international rights groups expressed concerns over the repressive direction of current authorities, calling on activists and civil society to ‘mobilize in defence of freedoms and human rights’.