The National Body for the Reform of Information and Communication(INRIC)
Tunis – Nabil Zaghdoud
The Tunisian government said it was surprised at a media reform watchdog\'s decision to dissolve itself, saying it believed the press should be free from government influence as \"it must have the financial strength
to make it immune to extortion\".
The independent Tunisian authority charged with reforming the media announced earlier on Wednesday that it had shut down after failing to achieve its objective, accusing the Islamist-dominated government of censorship.
“The body does not see the point in continuing its work and announces that it has terminated its work,” said Kamel Labidi, who heads the National Body for the Reform of Information and Communication (INRIC).
Labidi justified the decision by saying the government had reverted to “censorship and disinformation”.
INRIC was created after the revolution that overthrew president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year to reform the media sector, and particularly state media organs, to guarantee Tunisia\'s previously restricted press freedom.
Labidi, the organisation’s director, is himself a journalist who lived in exile during Ben Ali’s dictatorship.
INRIC and several human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the government, led by Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali for lacking the will to take steps to guarantee the independence of the media.
It cited the failure to apply decrees 115 and 116, which are designed to ensure the protection of journalists and provide the basis for a framework regulating new audiovisual media.
In return, the government said that the two decrees contain legal breaches and were not lawful for the Constituent Assembly to ratify them.
INRIC said it refused to be a \"decoration\"., to which the government responded by saying it reacted positively to the INRIC report, and had agreed to a second consultation which it posted on its Facebook page.
\"The media must distance itself from serving narrow, sectarian interests for political and financial power,\" said the government in a statement.
The Ennahda-led government said it was committed ti providing the media sector with \"constitutional and legal protection to convey news with objectivity\".
It said: “Freedom of media exercised by those involved in the profession in developed legal frameworks is the only restriction of assembling authorities on one hand at the expense of democratic life. This freedom guarantees the role of an observer to the discipline of those in powers, whether financial or political or serving in the public interest.\"