Tunisia: Freedom of the media undermined by government reforms
03 Sep 2012
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ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned with the latest developments in Tunisia, particularly with the situation of freedom of expression, including freedom of the Media, which has been deteriorating since the beginning of 2012.
The government has taken a number of negative positions on reform of the information and communications sector, including:
- Refusal to enforce decrees 115 and 116 adopted by parliament in November 2011
- Provisions of the draft text of the new constitution for the establishment of an "independent media regulatory body " whose members would be elected by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). Such an approach raises serious doubts as to the independence of the regulatory body
- Bill under discussion within the ANC on the amendment of the Penal Code in order to criminalise violations of sacred values, which constitutes a serious threat to freedom of expression.
Other difficulties in the democratic reform process in Tunisia include:
- National Authority to Reform Information and Communication (INRIC) decided to end its activities on 4 July 2012. INRIC made the decision to protest against the government's indifference to the reform proposals contained in its report issued on 30 April 2012.
- The commission of experts within the Body for the Achievement of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition (HIROR) took the same decision on 24 August 2012.
Meanwhile, the government continues to appoint the heads of public media unilaterally, without consultation with media professionals, and in the absence of transparent mechanisms, as well as objective and fair criteria giving priority to merit and competence.
- After the appointments of the heads of Agency TAP, the Tunisian Television and SNIPE were made unilaterally on 7 January 2012, the Tunisian government appointed new directors as the heads of public radio stations using the same approach on 2 July 2012
- On 17 August 2012, the government appointed a new CEO of Tunisian Television, in the person of Ms. Imen Bahroun
- On August 21, the government fired Samari Kamel - a well known human rights activist - of his duties as Director General of Dar Assabah and replaced him with Lotfi Touati, a controversial journalist who began his career as head of police. Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dar Assabah, Mustapha Ben Letaief, and another council member, Fethi Sellaouti, submitted their resignations in protest against this decision which they believed was contrary to the principles of good governance.
ARTICLE 19 believes that the approach adopted by the Tunisian government violates international standards regarding freedom of the Media.
ARTICLE 19 is concerned that newly appointed leaders have already interfered with media independence and taken sanctions against journalists. These sanctions include unfair decisions taken against Nadia Haddaoui and Najoua Zouheir (Radio Tunis Chaine Internationale), Bouthaina Gouiaa (National Radio) and Jameleddine Bourigua (Assabah).
ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with Tunisian journalists and their determination to defend freedom of expression, independence of the media and their editorial lines.
ARTICLE 19 calls on Tunisian politicians, including the President of the Republic, the President of the ANC, President of the Government and party leaders of the Troika coalition, to defend the independence and freedom of the media and enhance the process of reform in the information and communication sector based on the principles of pluralism and diversity, and in accordance with international standards.
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