Tunisian authorities have detained the head of a local newspaper and two of its editors for publishing a picture of Tunisian German footballer, Sami Khdeira, currently playing for Real Madrid, together with a nude woman.
The newspaper published a GQ magazine cover photo in which Khdeira appeared dressed in a tuxedo with his hands covering the breasts of his naked German model girlfriend, Lena Gercke.
Attounisia newspaper’s publisher, Nasreddine Bensaida, the editor-in-chief, Habib Guizani, and the editor of the world section, Hedi Hidhri, were charged with violating public morals, authorities said.
Their lawyer Abd al-Raoof al-Iyadi said that a request to release Bensaida was rejected by the authorities, prompting the newspaper chief to go on hunger strike.
Tunisian media reports said the newspaper has received threats to torch down its building and that area is not being guarded by security forces.
Since the ouster last year of president Zine el-Abideen Ben Ali, Tunisia has seen a steady rise of Islamist activists seeking to crackdown on secularists in the country.
Tunisia’s minister of culture, Mahdi Mabrook, disallowed some Arab singers from performing during the Carthage festival, saying they were provocative and low-class singers.
Mabrook dismissed Egyptian pop singers Tamir Hosni and Shirin Abdalwahab, and said that the two Lebanese female singers Allisa and Nancy Ajram were not welcome to perform.
“Over my dead body will Allisa and Nancy Ajram come to Carthage,” he was quoted as saying.
His statement created uproar in the Lebanese artists’ circles according to al-Ahram e-newspaper.
Mabrook who belongs to the ruling, moderate Islamist An-Nahda party, told Mosaic station, that not allowing Arjam, Allisa as well as Fadhil al-Shakir was a result of “dictatorship in fine taste.”
He said that legendary, older generation singers such as Lebanon’s Fairuz and Malham Barakat were better choices.
He also expressed his fear that “nakedness” would return to parties and that would be bad for women.
Such “policy,” he said, will be applied to other festivals which would be under direct supervision of the cultural ministry.
In a reply to his denunciation of the Lebanese singers, Allia stated that her coming to perform in Carthage should be an “honor” for the festival’s establishment.
Lebanon’s artists syndicate said that tge country “would stay forever open for Tunisian artists to peform in."
Other examples of attempts to instill more conservatism since Ben Ali’s ouster include censorship in cinema.
Nadia al-Fani, a Tunisian film director who was exiled during Ben Ali’s rule, recently faced difficulties screening one of her movies in the country.
“Neither Allah nor Master” was retitled “Secularism, Inshallah” and was not banned, but many theatres were afraid to screen it.
In October 2011, protesters tried to set fire to a TV station after it screened an award-winning animated Iranian film, “Persepolis.” The protesters were outraged by a scene in which God is portrayed in a physical form.