Sami Khedira, the German-Tunisian midfielder for Real Madrid, and girlfriend Lena Gercke, the first winner of Germany’s Next Top Model, find a picture of the two of them caught at the centre of a political whirlpool.
A steamy GQ cover that shows Khedira in a tuxedo holding a naked Gercke around the chest appeared recently in Tunisian newspaper Attounissia. And now the fact its publication has landed three journalists in jail for the offense of “offending public morality,” according to a Reuters story.
The picture’s publication in a Tunisian newspaper so infuriated the country’s public prosecutor that he has ordered the arrests of publisher Nasreddine Ben Said, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Habib Guizani, and Hedi Hidhri, editor of its world section, making them the first journalists to be arrested in the country since the overthrow of dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
The arrests themselves have sparked an outcry in Tunisia, where people now worry that a government led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party will censor material considered offensive to religious morals.
The outcry so far is being led by Tunisia’s journalists’ union, which is calling for “the immediate release of all journalists and the rejection of intimidation against reporters.”
As well, on Facebook, thousands of Tunisians have launched a campaign to support the journalists and defend freedom of expression.
Stepping away, for a second, from this story’s basis in European soccer (it actually has very little to do with soccer despite the presence of Sami Khedira), the arrests of these journalists seems like a hangover from the Arab Spring.
A grassroots movement of people from various corners of the country’s population worked to depose dictators like Ben Ali in Tunisia, and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, but now in these countries specifically, we see a divide growing between the aspirations of the secular population and those who elected Islamist governments to represent them.
In Egypt, we’ve seen concerns arise about the future of the country’s tourism. There are worries that the new government will outlaw the wearing of bikinis and consuming alcohol. Members of the governing Muslim Brotherhood have said they are “not against personal freedoms,” but concerns persist among tourism operators about the more extreme Salafist party, who won more than 20 per cent of votes in the first two rounds of the country’s recent elections.
And now in Tunisia, we have this: a not-quite-nude photo so offensive personally to the public prosecutor that journalists can be thrown in jail simply for publishing it. The move has started a minor uprising against the prosecutor, but there’s no telling yet how much it will grow.
For now, though, I just find it interesting to note how an image like this, in certain parts of the world, can reveal such a profound ideological divide within a country’s population.