Actress Sabrine Klibi and cameraman Mohamed Hedi Belgueyed were both sentenced to six months in prison on March 21 for their involvement in a controversial music rap video ‘Cops are Dogs’. The actress and the cameraman received their sentences at the Court of First Instance of Ben Arous, a southern suburb of Tunis. They were charged according to five articles of the Penal Code for slander and rebelling against officials.
"The rap video posted on youtube called the police dogs and contains expressions and gestures that affect morals and threaten the security of officers and magistrates," said the Ministry of Interior in a statement.
While the actress and the cameraman were jailed, rapper Ala Yaakoubi, known as “Weld El 15” is still sought by police. Yaakoubi was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in absentia for hate speech and incitement to violence and murder.
In a video published on facebook, Yaakoubi said that he does not regret making the film and that he is not going to turn himself in. He also asserted that the actress and the cameraman were not involved in making the video. “The song was issued as a response to the police’s physical and moral violence,” he added. He further explained that his song was inspired by his experience in prison after the 2011 revolution and treatment by police.“I was only using the language of the police. They have harassed me verbally and physically. As an artist, the only way I could answer them is through art. So I gave them a violent art,” he said.
In response to the arrests, concerns regarding the state of freedom in Tunisia were raised. Several artists signed a statement warning against what they saw as an alarming and worrying return to old practices by the police. These are the same practices that the Tunisian people rose up against in January 14 uprising.
Facebook users launched pages to support Klibi and Belgueyed, such as Free Sabrine Klibi, and called for a protest.
In post-revolution Tunisia, this is not the first time artists have been arrested. In November, two graffiti artists were arrested for writing on the wall of a university: “the people want rights for the poor” and “the poor are the living-dead in Tunisia.” They have been accused of breaching the state of emergency, writing on public property and publishing messages that disturbed the public order.
Recently a controversial video showing police dragging a female citizen in public has sparked outrage among human rights activists and on social networks. The video shows two police officers — one in plain clothes and the other wearing a police uniform — dragging a female through the street, partially stripping her in the process. The Ministry of the Interior announced that it had taken note of the video and launched an investigation into the matter. The ministry also announced that the officers responsible will be held accountable according to the law.