16 January 2012

Joint action

IFEX-TMG calls for recent public media appointments to be revoked and for journalists' protection

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(IFEX-TMG) – 16 January 2012 – On the anniversary of the revolution, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 21 IFEX members, urges the Tunisian government to revoke its recent controversial appointments giving media personnel close to the deposed President key posts in the public service media. The IFEX-TMG also further reiterates its call for journalists to be allowed to freely carry out their work, after another journalist was attacked during a demonstration last week.

A year ago when they swept the dictatorship of President Zine Abidine Ben Ali from power, Tunisian people set an extraordinary precedent throughout the region and beyond. By supporting free and independent media, the country's leadership would live up to the society's genuine aspirations and send a strong signal to other Arab Spring countries.

Tunisian journalists today won't accept the revival of either old corrupt practices or of patronage appointments of cronies of the former regime. A truly democratic and transparent media must be based on genuine consultations with all stakeholders.

On 9 January, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) organised a demonstration in the Casbah protesting the controversial announcements. A number of civil society organisations and political parties also condemned the appointments made by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

According to the Tunis Centre for Freedom of the Press, which also denounced the appointments, Sadeq Al-Bou'ban was appointed manager of the National TV Channel 1 after having managed the "purple" (or pro-Ben Ali) La 7 station. Amongst the other posts announced, Adnan Khathar, who engineered Ben Ali's 2009 "election" campaign, was appointed general manager of Tunisia's public television.

One of the key recommendations put forth by Tunisian free expression stakeholders during a conference organised by the IFEX-TMG in December in Tunis emphasised the importance of an independent public media and "the non-alignment" of those managing it.

"Rather than transform the public media into free, independent and professional institutions after it had served for years as merely a tool in the hands of the Ben Ali regime, the government's appointments has honoured Ben Ali's men in the media sector by awarding them key posts in the public service media. Many have perceived these appointments as the authority's attempt to instate individuals it can control in its effort to domesticate the media," said journalist Fahem Boukaddous of the Tunis Centre for Freedom of the Press.

"The government's decision is flawed and disturbing. Public service media exist to serve the public rather than political agendas, and those who lead public media must be nominated for their very ability to develop and defend independent information and programming," said Virginie Jouan, IFEX-TMG Chair.

The IFEX-TMG last week protested about assaults by plainclothes police on two women journalists during a demonstration on 4 January. The IFEX-TMG is further alarmed to hear reports that on 11 January, Sofiane Bin Hmida of Nessma TV was attacked by Ennahda activists while covering a sit-in at the interior ministry, according to the Agence Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP). Protesters wanted the head of internal security, another person associated with the former regime, to be fired.

IFEX members working in this country 1

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