Response to recent appointments of senior media posts indicate the continuing feud between the government and media groups in Tunisia.
Media freedom continues to represent a major issue in post-revolution Tunisia (AFP)
The Tunisian body responsible for communications has requested that the government abides by the country’s law in terms of appointments to senior media positions.
The High Independent Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA) released a statement last week, saying: “We would like to remind the government of our urgent demand to reconsider appointments to the top of audio-visual institutions as per a participatory approach that would guarantee independence.”
“The aim is to establish objective foundations that would help ensure success for the democratic transition and good preparation for the next election away from all forms of tension and doubt,” added the statement.
According to the law, the HAICI is supposed to be consulted regarding the appointments to senior posts in state-run media organistations. However, last week, the government named new bosses at five radio stations, apparently without consulting the body.
Chief of state radio network ERT, Mohamed Moueddeb, who announced the appointments argued: “These appointments are purely administrative measures, and some of them were made to fill the administrative vacuum, as is the case in El Kef and Gafsa, or to inject new blood, as is the case in Tataouineradio station.”
The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) has expressed its disappointment at the decisions, describing them as “beyond the legal formula.”
The union said that it categorically rejected the appointments because of the lack of involvement by the HAICA.
Thameur Zoghalmi, the manager of Radio Tataouine who was replaced with the recent appointments, echoed the union’s sentiments: “…HAICA is directly concerned with this part of its consultative tasks as per law 116. Moreover, these appointments are unprofessional because they included people who have nothing at all to do with the media and weren’t known for their defence of press freedom in the past.”
“As to Radio Tataouine, the new manager was appointed under direct intervention of the province governor, who has always shown his resentment of the work of this radio station, which has distinguished itself with its neutrality and independence,” he added.
Challenges facing Tunisian media
In light of the recent political appointments, HAICA has called for complete reforms of the sector, stating: “We’ve had enough with this institutional vacuum that has lasted for more than one and a half years and produced negative phenomena that would require intensive efforts to fix.”
Similarly, the Civil Coalition for the Defence of Freedom of Expression has argued that a new joint committee should be formed, one which will ensure transparency and independence.
They said that the recent appointments represent the latest in a “series of appointments made at public media institutions based on the principle of obedience and loyalty, which started to appear in January 2012.”
Media freedom has been under a spotlight in Tunisia since the revolution in 2011 which led to the Ennahda party assuming control in a coalition government.
On August 12, a journalist was detained for filming an incident in which an actor threw egg at the Culture Minister, Media Mabrouk.
Astrolabe TV employee, Mourad Harzi was detained “without putting any clear accusations to him,” according to his editor-in-chief.
The SNJT condemned his arrest, claiming that the incident represents a dangerous trend for media freedom in Tunisia, which could suffer in the future as a result.
Source: Doha Centre for Media Freedom
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