The right to rap: Tunisian artists establish National Rap Union to defend freedom of speech
Tunisian rapper Klay BBJ, accused of defaming public officials with his lyrics, was aquitted Thursday according to AFP. The acquittal decision arrives days after Tunisian rap artists announced that they had launched a labour union to defend their interests and promote their art, according to AllAfrica.com.
"The national union of rap artists aims to save the sector from marginalisation and unify them under a legal structure, ensuring their rights and defending them against abuses," said new union chief Wajdi Bouzaydi late last week.
Tunisia's new "National Rap Union" will be affiliatied to the General Confederation of Tunisian Workers (CGTT). The CGTT stated that the new rappers' union "will raise the level of urgency of files concerning the defence of freedom of expression".
Rappers in the North African country have been the recent target of several court proceedings. Klay BBJ, until the Thursday acquittal announcement, was serving a six-month sentence for using lyrics that reportedly defamed and insulted police officials. Rappers Mustapha Fakhfakh and Aymen El-Fikih are scheduled to stand trial next month for clashing with police during the court trial of fellow artist, Weld El 15, in June.
However, the establishment of the union, according to Bouzaidi, is not just a response to these cases: "[Establishing the union] was not a reaction to what happened to our friends in terms of judicial and security prosecution, but was dictated by the need to defend our physical and moral rights and regulating a domain that is still marginalised".
"It's a good idea for these young people to unite and defend their rights. They have proven with this step their material and moral integrity," said one passionate rap enthusiast interviewed in the report.
The new union will meet with police officials in the upcoming days in order to "correct the turbulent relationship between rap artists and officers."
According to Bouzaidi, known also as "XCali", the new union is also planning an annual rap festival and award, as well as starting a rap radio or television station.