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Tunisia: Clashes Over Future of State Television

On April 25 a sit-in outside the offices of Tunisia's state television network that had lasted almost eight weeks came to an end. Protestors had claimed that Al Wataniya television supported the ousted Ben Ali dictatorship and demanded its “cleansing”. After the government vowed to address their concerns, the protestors finally agreed to leave.

Critics argue that state media, and in particular the prime-time news on Al Wataniya, is prejudiced against Ennahda, the ruling party. The network has been accused of denigrating the government's work. The protests outside Wataniya had grown increasingly tense, with protestors brandishing mops and bottles of bleach, demanding to “cleanse” the broadcaster, and attacking journalists.

An announcement by a representative of Ennahda regarding the possible privatisation of state television led to violent clashes. The protestors were then asked to leave, and the government promised to respond to their demands, including the issues of financial and administrative corruption and employees who had been involved in making pro-Ben Ali propaganda in the past.

Tents in front of Tunisian state television network. Image from tuniculture.net (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

Bilmirssad questioned the efficacy of the sit-in:

@Boukacheche_TN: أن تطالب بتطهبر ذاتي للتلفزة دون الكشف عن عناصر الفساد فيها فذلك يعني أن هدفك ابتزاز موظفيها بملفاتهم ليكونوا في صفك ‎‪#Tunisie‬‏ ‎‪#TTN‬‏
To demand self-cleansing of the television without revealing the elements of corruption inside it means that your objective is to blackmail its professionals with their files in order for them to be in your side

After making the protestors end their sit-in, the government called for a national consultation about the media. Twitter user @tn_revo tweeted:

@tn_revo: فضيحة: الحكومة تستعين لإصلاح الاعلام بأشخاص ساهموا في تدجينه
Scandal: To reform the media, the government gets the help of people who contributed to taming it

Strategy consultant Selim Tanfous tweeted:

@Foustanovitch: Sinon.personne ne trouve que la privatisation de la #TTN est une énième tentative de dérouter l opinon publique vers d autres occupations?

Does no one find that the privatisation of #TTN [Tunisia's national television] is another attempt to divert public opinion towards other preoccupations?

Tunisian television "for sale". Image by Flickr user Mourad Dachraoui (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Mohamed Nidhal Bettaieb criticised the government's dissatisfaction with the media:

@NidhalBettaieb: Sinon le #tnGov n'arrête pas d'insulter la #TTN , mais ne cesse d'être présent sur ses plateaux

The Tunisian government doesn't stop insulting #TTN, but continues to stand on its podiums

Mehdi Charfi tweeted:

@___mehdi: bcp de bruit sur privatisation des medias publics.. je pense que meme pas en rêve, et ils le savent tres bien, c juste pour “faire peur”#TTN

A lot of buzz about the privatisation of the state media… I don't think even in their dreams, and they know it very well, it's just to create fear

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