Media freedom in Tunisia stirs huge debate

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia’s media regulator has lately shut down a lot of media shops, stirring a large controversy on the way forward for the press within the nation. The non-public Tunisian Hannibal TV introduced Oct. 31 in a statement on its Fb web page that it determined to robotically and briefly droop broadcasting till its authorized state of affairs is settled and it obtains a broadcasting license.

The channel defined that its transfer is available in response to the choice of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) instructing it to instantly halt broadcasting or face authorized measures. HAICA had issued in September a call to cease the licensing and authorized state of affairs regularization procedures of the channel.

Hannibal channel’s transfer comes days after non-public Nessma channel, primarily based within the metropolis of Rades within the southern suburbs of the Tunisian capital, confirmed in a statement on its web site that on Oct. 27 HAICA, escorted by the safety forces, seized its broadcasting tools below the pretext of working with out a license. HAICA had beforehand warned Nessma channel a number of instances since 2015, slapping it with warnings and monetary penalties.

In October 2018, HAICA warned the administration of Nessma TV that it was violating the legislation by broadcasting with out authorized permission and failing to finish the procedures for regularizing its authorized standing. A 2011 Tunisian law mandated that each one broadcasting establishments within the nation should be run as joint-stock corporations and Nessma was run as a personal restricted firm.

In response to a statement by HAICA, on its web site, it was pressured to grab Nessma channel broadcasting tools after it repeatedly notified it that it was not in compliance with this authorized requirement.

Nessma TV is owned by the previous presidential elections candidate, Nabil Karoui, who was arrested in Algeria two months in the past on the Algerian border on costs of illegally crossing the border and is being pursued by the judiciary in instances of suspected cash laundering and tax evasion since 2017. He was arrested in December 2020 for a interval of six months.

Karoui is the pinnacle of the Coronary heart of Tunisia occasion, an ally of the Ennahda occasion that has an Islamic body of reference. Ennahda can be the primary political opponent of President Kais Saied, who has suspended parliament since July 25.

Ziad al-Riba, authorized consultant and common supervisor of Nessma channel, instructed Al-Monitor that since 2014 HAICA has inflicted fines on Nessma channel that amounted to 1.4 billion Tunisia dinars ($492 million). He confused that Nessma channel has sought greater than as soon as to settle its authorized standing with HAICA, however was met with procrastination on the latter’s half. 

In 2015, HAICA closed the non-public Al-Zitouna TV channel, which can be near the Ennahda occasion and essentially the most vital of the present president, Saied. The channel’s broadcasting tools was seized, nevertheless it continued broadcasting. HAICA famous in a detailed report printed on its official web site that the channel has didn’t settle its authorized state of affairs. 

HAICA additionally shut down the Holy Quran Radio station owned by suspended member of parliament Saad Jaziri of the Errahma occasion. The station was accused of inciting hatred and violence and utilizing a frequency with out acquiring approvals from the official authorities. HAICA had beforehand shut down the radio station final March.

On Oct. 20, HAICA imposed a fine of 100,000 Tunisian dinars ($35,000) on the radio station due to the content material it had broadcast Sept. 1, which allegedly urged younger males to go combat in hotbeds akin to Syria, primarily based on a selected interpretation of some spiritual texts.

HAICA member Hisham al-Senussi instructed Mosaique non-public radio station Oct. 27 that Nessma channel and Quran al-Kareem radio station have been shut down, all their tools was seized and their broadcasting studios have been closed by crimson wax seal, for having violated the legislation.

He defined that HAICA had, on a number of events, issued selections to grab their tools, however these selections weren’t enforced since these media shops are supported by coverage events. He additional famous that these shops have been broadcasting opposite to the legislation, which is deemed a gross authorized violation.

In the identical assertion, Senussi asserted HAICA has been attempting for years to get Nessma TV to settle its authorized standing, however sadly it confirmed contempt for the legislation and HAICA’s selections. HAICA argues that the closure of the 4 media shops and the confiscation of their tools was in step with Article 31 of Legislative Decree 116 of 2011 referring to the liberty of audiovisual communication and offering for the creation of HAICA. 

The article stipulates that in case of train of unlicensed broadcasting actions, HAICA could impose fines and order the seizure of apparatus used within the efficiency of those actions. Article 50 of the identical decree states that beforehand licensed audio-visual communication amenities should regularize their standing in accordance with the provisions of this decree inside a most interval of 1 yr as of the date of its issuance.

Ossema Benaicha, a journalist with the non-public Al-Zitouna TV channel, instructed Al-Monitor that the choice to shut media establishments threatens the one achievement achieved by the January 14 revolution. “The skilled state of affairs of employees in these establishments might be horrifying, and they’re going to discover themselves with out wages,” he mentioned. “The information of those media establishments should be regularized away from political concerns with a purpose to serve the pursuits of the journalists and the liberty of the press and the media.”

HAICA had confirmed in a statement printed on its web site June 14 that it warned the 4 media shops to instantly cease broadcasting in any other case it might take the mandatory authorized measures towards them.

Abdel-Jabbar al-Madouri, political analyst and former editor-in-chief of Sawt al-Shaab newspaper, instructed Al-Monitor that media freedom faces a menace in Tunisia in mild of the repeated assaults on journalists and the media. He warned that closing media channels will expose many journalists to unemployment.

President of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists Yassine Jelassi mentioned in a statement to the Tunisian nationwide information company, Tunis Africa Press, that the one resolution to the problem of the closed channels is to adjust to the legislation, stressing the necessity for these channels to not stay closed or in violation of the legislation.

He indicated that these accountable for these establishments and their managers have been speculated to regularize their conditions and return to work throughout the framework of the legislation. They must take refuge within the legislation as a substitute of in search of partisan and political safety, he added.

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