Tunisia’s court of cassation on Wednesday threw out a ruling banning pornographic websites, a judicial source and a press freedom watchdog said.
“The court quashed the first instance and appeals ruling that ordered the censorship of pornographic websites,” the judicial source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The source added the case would go back to an appeals court.
“This is rather good news,” said Olivia Gre, whose organization Reporters Without Borders had warned against returning to the censorship that prevailed in pre-revolution Tunisia, under the ousted regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
“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,” lawyer Monaem Turki, one of the plaintiffs, said.
He had said earlier this month that pornographic websites offended Muslim values and should be accessible from Tunisia.
“In France, Hitler apologist websites are censored. Likewise, in Tunisia, there should also be prohibitions and pornographic sites are not tolerable,” Turki said.
But rights groups and the internet agency (ATI) itself, which was already ordered twice to filter porn sites, have spoken out against censorship.
“It’s a step backwards,” ATI’s chief executive Moez ChakChouk had said. “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.”
He also said filtering would compromise the quality and speed of data transfers, and that his agency did not have sufficient funds to carry out such censorship anyway.