Tunisian journalists go on strike on April 2 to threaten press freedom

TUNIS, March 23 (Reuters) – Tunisian journalists will go on strike on April 2 to protest the president’s “attempts to control public media”, union officials said on Wednesday, amid fears for the right freedom of expression acquired during the 2011 revolution.

The main journalists’ union has criticized moves to bring state television under the direct control of President Kais Saied as well as the detention last week of a journalist for not revealing his sources in an article about Islamist militants .

Saied has imposed one-man rule since suspending parliament and seizing most power last summer in a move his enemies have called a coup, although he has vowed to defend the rights and freedoms acquired during the democratic revolution.

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But critics say his actions, which also include replacing the body that guaranteed judicial independence and threatening to stop foreign funding for civil society organisations, show he has little tolerance for dissent.

The impending strike adds to the broadening of opposition to Saied’s moves across the Tunisian political spectrum, although he still appears to retain some popularity amid disillusionment with coalition governments that have been crippled by wrangling. for years.

Freedom of speech and of the press was a key gain for Tunisians after 2011, as Tunisia adopted a new democratic system and much of its media continued to run stories unfavorable to Saied, including reports on the protests against him.

However, the Journalists’ Union says that freedom is under serious threat, with more restrictions on journalists reporting in public and what it calls a ban on state television hosting opposition figures in political debates.

The state TV chief said there was no such ban, but Reuters has not seen any opposition figures appear on the channel since Saied took over executive power l ‘last summer.

“State television has become a propaganda trumpet for the president,” senior journalist union official Amira Mohamed told Reuters.

She said Saied had also refused to implement an agreement reached between the union and a previous administration governing the structure and economic terms of the media sector.

Human Rights Watch deputy regional director Eric Goldstein wrote this week that Saied had “begun to dismantle institutional checks on his authority since taking power in July, and state television is an obvious target.”

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Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Angus McDowall and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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