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Monday, 04 March 2024 17:55

Tunisian Civil Society Fears Plan to Limit Foreign Funding

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The head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi, speaks during a protest against a proposed legislation that will grant the government sweeping powers over NGOs, on Saturday (2/3/2024). (Photo: AFP/Fethi Belaid) Tunisian civil society groups fear the government is planning to starve them of foreign funding under the pretext of fighting money laundering and terrorism. Tunisian president Kais Saied, who launched a sweeping power grab in 2021 and rules by decree, has accused many non-government organizations of serving "foreign agendas".

Under a draft law he supported, state authorities would have to approve all foreign funding for NGOs that operate in the North African country. Human rights groups worry it is another repressive measure in the country that became known as the birthplace of the Arab Spring protests more than a decade ago.


"The bill aims to restrict civil society - its financing, its activity and to limit its work to certain topics suggested by the political authority," said Bassem Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights as reported by AFP.


If the draft law is enacted, Trifi warned, "Tunisia will lose its civil society and all the work it has done".


Amnesty International warned that the "absolute discretion given to the government to authorize or deny funding requests of civil society groups may constitute a disproportionate restriction of the right to freedom of association". The Tunisian groups also worry that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost if funding from abroad dries up, given that most organizations receive little to no public money in the recession-hit and highly indebted country.


Saied, elected democratically in October 2019, sacked parliament in July 2021 and assumed most executive powers. A number of Saied's opponents are behind bars as Tunisia prepares for presidential elections set to take place in October. (AFP)

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