Tunisia's High Court Throws Out Online Porn Ban

Feb 22, 2012 8:30 AM PST

TUNIS, Tunisia —  In a surprise move, Tunisia's highest court has thrown out a complaint calling for a ban on porn websites in the country.

A judicial source said, "The court quashed the first instance and appeals ruling that ordered the censorship of pornographic websites," but the case will be appealed.

The case came before the court just last week after three lawyers claimed that porn is “against Muslim values” and dangerous for the young.

It’s not clear as why the ruling was handed down, but the decision was unexpected considering that online porn censorship has already been ordered twice before when the courts ordered the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) to block adult sites.

Critics of the ban have been concerned that if adopted, the measure would boomerang the country back to the pre-revolution censorship days under the ousted regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

"This is rather good news," said Reporters Without Boorders’ Olivia Gre.

Rights groups and the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) have also spoken out against the ban.

"It's a step backwards," said ATI's chief executive Moez ChakChouk. "Under Ben Ali, the ATI was an instrument of political control and censorship. Today we are fighting for the neutrality of the Internet, but they want to put the old cloak back on us."

ChakChouk also maintained that filtering would hurt the quality and speed of data transfers, and that the ATI does not have the funds to effectively censor online activity.

But one of the plaintiffs, lawyer Monaem Turki, who has been a vocal critic about how porn is damaging Tunisian society said, "I respect the court's decision but I think the judiciary has shirked the issue. We will use the same arguments to win this case in the appeals court.”

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