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Media, strikes threat to Tunisia unity: Ennahda

Ennahda's leader Rached Ghannouchi denounces the growing number of 'calls for regional and sectoral strikes' in Tunisia; opposition accuses the ruling Islamist party of anti-democratic behaviour

AFP , Tuesday 7 Aug 2012
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, speaks after the announcement of the election of the new leadership of Ennahda, Tunis, Monday (Photo: Reuters)
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Views: 1149

Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party, accused by opposition groups of anti-democratic behaviour, on Monday slammed the language of hostile media and strike calls that it said threatened the country's unity.

"The extreme heat has been accompanied by tensions that threaten the unity of the country," Ennahda's historic leader Rached Ghannouchi said in a statement, referring to a heatwave that has swept across Tunisia.

"At the level of the media, the political parties and currents have begun stirring things up against each other using a language that would suggest we are at war," he added.

He also denounced the growing number of "calls for regional and sectoral strikes," after the General Workers' Union (UGTT) urged medical sector employees to stage a nationwide walkout on Tuesday.

The powerful union has criticised the dispersal of a sit-in last month in the city of Sfax, 300 kilometres (180 miles) south of Tunis, and the detention of four trade unionists.

Ghannouchi also dismissed the importance some media and opposition groups attached to a proposed article in the new constitution which refers to the "complementarity" of women to men, rather than their equality.

"Some MPs (in the National Constituent Assembly) have seen in this phrase some sort of retreat on fundamental principles like equality, on which there is a consensus between Ennahda and its main coalition partners," the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both centre-left parties, he said.

The article, which was adopted by an NCA commission last week but must be ratified at a plenary session of the transitional parliament, has caused outcry among certain rights groups, including Amnesty International.

Ennahda has been heavily criticised by some civil society and opposition groups for seeking to curtail freedom of expression, most recently with a draft law to criminalise offences against "sacred values" that could carry a jail term of up to four years.

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