'Urgent need' for independent regulation of Tunisia media: Watchdog

AFP , Wednesday 29 Aug 2012

A Tunisian media rights watchdog slams the restrictions imposed by the Islamist government on state media and calls for 'urgent need' of reform

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali delivers his speech at the Ennahda party congress in Tunis, Thursday, July, 12, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday denounced the Tunisian government for tightening its control of state media, highlighting the "urgent need" for independent regulation of the broadcasting sector.

The media rights watchdog said it expressed "incomprehension at the persistence of inappropriate appointments to top state media posts," during a meeting on Friday with government officials, including two political advisors to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

It said there was an "urgent need for the creation of an independent body to regulate the broadcasting sector," and called on the government put an "end once and for all to the lack of transparency" surrounding the latest appointments.

"What was at first described by the government as an exception became the rule as the months went by," the organisation (RSF - Reporters sans frontieres) charged.

The government, dominated by the Islamist party Ennahda, has been heavily criticised lately for seeking to manipulate the media, including by appointing new directors to head public media groups without consulting their staff.

It has also been accused of interfering with editorial content.

The authorities say they are working to remove from the media landscape those who worked for the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, most notably television boss Sami Fehri, an associate of the ousted president's family, who is wanted for corruption.

The start of the judicial process against Fehri coincided with a decision to abruptly pull the satirical puppet show broadcast by his Ettounsiya TV channel, because of "pressures" from Ennahda, according to Fehri and the Tunisian journalists' union.

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