Tunisia fines TV boss over 'Persepolis' screening


The director of the Tunisian TV channel Nessma, Nabil Karoui (C), leaves a Tunis courthouse on April 19, 2012.



A Tunisian court has fined the owner of a private TV station for broadcasting the award-winning, controversial French/American film “Persepolis,” which tells the story of a girl growing up in Iran and includes a scene depicting Allah, forbidden in Islam.

Nabib Karoui was ordered by the court to pay 2,400 dinars ($1,700) for “broadcasting a film that disturbs public order and threatens proper morals,” while a technician and another official at Karoui’s Nessma station were both fined 1,200 dinars, the BBC reports.

Radical Muslims have denounced “Persepolis” as blasphemous, and Islamist militants attacked Nessma’s offices when the film was broadcast last October. Dozens of men later mobbed Karoui’s home, throwing Molotov cocktails, and some ultra-conservatives had called for his execution, according to The Daily Telegraph.

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Speaking in January at the opening of his hearing, Karoui said: “I am sorry to be here today, this is a political trial.

“It’s the trial of 10 million Tunisians who dreamed of having a democratic country,” he added, according to Al Arabiya.

In a statement, US Ambassador Gordon Gray said Thursday’s ruling raised “serious concerns about tolerance and freedom of expression” in the wake of last year’s revolution against toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Reuters reports.

“I am concerned and disappointed by the conviction for Nessma television’s broadcast of an animated film previously approved for distribution by the Tunisian government,” Gray said.

“We understand that Mr. Karoui has the right to appeal his conviction, and we hope this case will be resolved in a manner which guarantees free expression, a basic right denied to Tunisians during the Ben Ali era,” he added.

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