Tunisia's Fragile Success
Security Law Raises Worries About Tunisia’s Democracy

Is Tunisia, the sole success story of the Arab Spring, backsliding from democracy into more authoritarian patterns? Because of a new security law, some worry that the answer is yes. The Financial Times reports:

Political parties, civil society and human rights activists have been enraged by draconian provisions of a vaguely worded security bill that criminalises the “denigration” of police and other security forces and allows hefty prison sentences for anyone found guilty of divulging or publishing a “national security secret”.

The Repression of Attacks against Armed Forces bill also exonerates the security forces from criminal liability for using lethal force to repel attacks against their homes, objects and vehicles if it is deemed necessary and proportionate.

The early years of a democracy, before stability is fully established and cultural habits are fully ingrained, are often the most delicate. Even the United States, which had local democracies during its colonial times, passed the draconian Alien and Sedition Acts during the panic surrounding the Napoleonic Wars. The riskier the security situation is, the more delicate democracy becomes—and the one thing proponents of this law get right is that Tunisia’s security situation certainly is precarious. It would be tragic if worsening security concerns undercut Tunisia’s fragile progress. The world should hope that this success story of the Arab Spring remains just that.

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