Prosecuted over Persepolis

A TV station owner is fined as Tunisia aims to build links with Iran.

by Jennie Kermode

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, a controversial depiction of life in Iran after the 1979 revolution, has hit the headlines once again, this time in Tunis. Nabil Karoui, owner of the Nessma TV network, has been fined for screening the film last October on grounds that it "disrupts public morals" and risks triggering disorder.

The film is controversial for several reasons, with Sunni Muslims considering it blasphemous because it includes a visual representation of Allah. It is a particularly sensitive subject for the Iranian Ministry of Culture and post-revolutionary Tunisia has been working hard to forge a stronger relationship with Iran, with an Iranian film week showcased in the capital last month. The inclusion of A Separation in this event, however, itself risked creating diplomatic difficulties, as the Iranian regime is divided over its relationship to the Oscar-winning film.

Reactions to the fine have been mixed, with some commentators arguing that it is far too low and protesting the court's dismissal of a second, related charge. Others have suggested that the court has carefully tried to find a middle ground to avoid inflaming passions on either side of the debate. Karoui's lawyer has registered his intention to appeal.

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