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The Media Scene in Tunisia, Seven Years After the Revolution.

19 October 2018 1352 Views

Despite all the drawbacks, great strides have been made towards overall stability in post-revolution Tunisia; two the most remarkable milestones achieved are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The year 2011 marked a new dawn for Tunisia's both electronic and print media, prior to Ben Ali's ousting only 4 television channels, 14 radio stations and 30 newspapers existed. Now audiovisual media corporations almost doubled, from 18 to 29—including 11 television channels and 16 radio stations. As for print media, there are currently almost 10 daily journals, along with 20 weekly, 8 monthly and 1 fortnightly paper. In 2011 only, there were 39 television channels, 50 radio stations, and 229 newspapers.

 

Tunisia took a major leap forward as far as freedoms of information and expression after the revolution, ranked first in 2016 and third in 2017. Albeit, Tunisian media is still a venue for manipulation, intimidation, and bias. A shortfall in resources, triggered by poor advertising distribution, has led some private media companies to stop broadcasting. Besides, much of the media is influenced by political partisanship, as such, a great deal of their content is made to serve certain political agendas. The involvement of authorities, lobbies, syndicates, political parties, and those with political and financial influence, through what is known as political finance, plays a major role in shaping the Tunisian media landscape. This has been claimed by some expert editors, leading to audience scepticism and a decline in viewing rates. Inevitably, media  outlets have become rather focused on smaller individual audience groups. There is also no correlation between media viewing rates and media credibility. In the eyes of the consumer, plausibility of the press is next to worthless, and as some say, Tunisians use the media like a ''cigarette'' they throw it away once they are done with it. Not to mention the flagrant dissemination of inappropriate themes that are regarded unethical in view of Tunisian moral standards.
 

When many critics speak about media regulation and freedom of the press, they are not as you might expect, earnest about free speech and freedom of information in the same vein it was interpreted by Voltaire "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." In their view of how to moderate the media scene, violations are justified by sophisticated rhetoric entrenched in totalitarianism, dictatorship, hegemony and monopoly of the truth. And there are no rules in place to govern them, they merely refer to ideological principles and political theory for value judgement. Some observers criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for raising the Rabia symbol during his recent visit to Tunisia, labelling his gesture a ‘’provocation’’. Another illustration of this is the case of Al-Janoubia and Al-Zaytouna television channels. The High Independent Authority of the Audiovisual (HAICA)—an independent Tunisian media regulator—refused to grant the two channels permission to broadcast on the pretext that both of their managers were political party leaders. Later, the former was granted the license, yet Al-Zaytouna was not. A typical case in point of preferential treatment that was purely motivated by politics. Rather than granting it its lawful licence, allegations around the legitimacy of Al-Zaytouna's funding are raised with such persistence that unmasks their relentless determination to eliminate it. The channel was being accused of receiving off the record funds from unauthorised sources, given that it did not air any TV commercials; meanwhile, a blind eye is turned towards other TV channels and radio stations whose sources are far more questionable.

 

The directive by the government to instate a permanent audiovisual body must take into account the defects and failures of the current HAICA commission. In order to ensure impartiality, the new media regulator must abide by the law and be subject to supervision by both, Parliament and Government, so as to avoid further violations and corruption.
 

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