Employees gather inside the building housing the Zitouna TV channel gather on October 6, 2021, after Tunisian authorities seized broadcasting equipment, in the district of Mghira of greater Tunis, the country s capital. - Security forces seized the material from the TV station, considered close to Al-Karama and Ennahdha, two parties opposed to President Kais Saied, which the country s media authoruty said had been operating illegally. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)
Zitouna TV, considered close to Ennahdha and its ally Al-Karama, both of which oppose a July power grab by President Kais Saied, had been operating illegally, the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) said.
"Broadcasting equipment was confiscated today from the Zitouna channel following a decision," HAICA president Nouri Lajmi told AFP.
"Zitouna has been broadcasting illegally for years and has not received a broadcasting licence as it has not respected the legal framework."
Nasreddine bin Hammouda, head of production at the Zitouna Network that produces programmes for Zitouna TV and other channels, said "security forces accompanied by members of the HAICA raided the headquarters of Zitouna Network... and began confiscating equipment".
"Nobody told us it was forbidden to work with Zitouna TV," he said.
The channel was still on air, he added.
Saied in July suspended parliament, sacked the Ennahdha-supported government of Hichem Mechichi and removed MPs' immunity following months of growing public anger over an ongoing economic crisis and failings in managing the coronavirus pandemic.
Hichem El-Senoussi, a member of HAICA, told AFP that decisions had been taken a month ago against Zitouna TV and other channels that had "failed to comply with orders to stop broadcasting".
Zitouna TV started broadcasting in 2012, following the fall of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in an uprising the previous year.
In 2015, some of its equipment was seized but it continued operating.
El-Senoussi said the HAICA had repeatedly ordered the channel to close, but that it had been "supported by political actors including Ennahdha", preventing the orders from being implemented.
Tunisian authorities on Sunday arrested Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad on charges of "plotting against state security", his lawyer said, along with an Al-Karama MP who appeared on Ayad's show and criticised Saied's moves.
It was the latest detention of a legislator after Saied lifted their immunity.
Military justice arrested Al-Karama's head Seifeddine Makhlouf on September 22 for "undermining the dignity of the army", his lawyer said at the time.