Tunisian media lacks necessary tools to support democratic process
Tunis – Nabil Zaghdoud
The Tunisian political advisor to the Prime Minister has said the current Tunisian media lacks the necessary tools to support a democratic process.
In a statement,to Arabstoday, Lotfy Zaitoun, the political
adviser to the head of the Islamist Ennahda-led government said: \"In a democratic system, the media includes pro- government parties and opposition parties or neutral parties, but now the Tunisian media is going in one direction which is to play the role of the opposition against the government.”
He denied accusations by organisations such as the National Body for the Reform of Information and Communication (INRIC), which said the government was resorting to \"censorship and disinformation\".
\"It is not the duty of the government to be a watchdog for the media despite its deliberate attack on the elected government,\" he said.
Commenting on opposition to the recent appointments that have involved heads of nine governmental radio stations, Zaitoun said: \"These appointments are purely administrative and the decision to dismiss the national director of the first channel is an administrative decision and the government has nothing to do with it.\"
Zaitoun also stressed that the government was surprised at INRIC\'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.
\"The media reform file is under the powers of the Constituent Assembly,\" he explained. \"The governing law of public power gives priority to legislative initiatives submitted by the government over other initiatives,\" which is considered an abolition of the two decrees, said Zaitoun.
The constitutional committee affiliated to the National Constituent Council had agreed last Wednesday on the final version of the chapter specialised with the independent media authority which will be included in the draft constitution.
The draft chapter mentioned establishing a \"public authority to oversee the sector and to modify, develop and ensure freedom of expression and information and the right to get information and to ensure pluralistic and impartial media.\"
According to an earlier statement by the committee: \"The Independent committee for Media consists of nine independent members who are qualified, experienced and honest and will be elected by the legislative authority for five non-renewable years.\" This committee has legal, financial and administrative independence.
The political advisor to the Tunisian government also said there was no \"veto\" against a modification in the cabinet, saying: \"Modifications inside the government are not improbable as the (ruling) troika needs modification.\"
He explained that the government accepted the resignation of the minister of administrative reforms and civil service, Mohammed Abbou, saying: \"There are consultations within the government coalition to fill the empty position.\"
The Ennahda-led government said it was committed to providing the media sector with \"constitutional and legal protection to convey news with objectivity\".
It said in a statement on Friday: “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.\"