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US says Tunisia TV fine raises freedom concerns

May 3, 2012 15:03

TUNIS - The United States expressed concern on Thursday at a Tunisian court's ruling against a television station owner in a blasphemy row, saying it raised concerns about free expression after last year's revolution ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Nabil Karoui, head of private television station Nessma, was fined 2,400 dinars ($1,550) for broadcasting the award-winning animated film "Persepolis" which, the court found, was an attack on moral values and a risk to public order.

"I am concerned and disappointed by this conviction for Nessma television's broadcast of an animated film previously approved for distribution by the Tunisian government," US ambassador Gordon Gray said in a statement.

"His conviction raises serious concerns about tolerance and freedom of expression in the new Tunisia. 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."

The film, about a girl growing up in Iran, includes a scene depicting God, which is forbidden in Islam. Its airing outraged some conservative Salafi Islamists who attacked the station.

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