Police, dogs and rap music

Two people are in custody in Tunisia and six more are being sought by the authorities in connection with a rap music video entitled "Boulicia Kleb" (Police are Dogs).

According to the interior ministry, the public prosecutor in Ben Arous began a criminal investigation because the video, posted on YouTube earlier this month, contained defamatory expressions and "immoral" gestures directed against the police and magistrates.

The two people arrested – Sabrine Klibi (who is seen dancing in the video) and Mohamed Hedi Belgueyed (who is said to have directed it) – are now in jail awaiting trial, but the rapper, known as Weld El 15, has gone into hiding.

Weld El 15 – so called because he began rapping as a boy of 15 – has since given an interview to Nawaat website (video here, in Arabic) where he says he has no intention of giving himself up:

"I am afraid I wouldn’t reach the court in good shape if police got to me first. I don’t have confidence in the justice system either."

Responding to complaints that the song incites violence, he continued:

"I was only using the language of the police. They harassed me verbally and physically. As an artist, the only way I could answer them is through art. I gave them a violent art ...

"I would not throw stones. I expressed my opinion, thinking there is freedom of expression. It turns out I am mistaken. Before, we were afraid to speak and risk prison. Now, after the revolution, I am going to jail for expressing my opinion."

Under Tunisian law, insulting civil servants (including the police) or accusing them of lawbreaking without proof is punishable with a year in prison.

The case raises questions about the boundaries of free expression in Tunisia following the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime. Last year, two atheists were sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail and fined 1,200 dinars ($800) for "disturbing the public order" and "transgressing morality" with their anti-religious views.

Another rapper, known as The General, was arrested during the uprising against Ben Ali over a song entitled "President, your people are dying." He was released after three days.

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Monday, 18 March 2013