Last Updated: Monday, 22 December 2014, 13:11 GMT

World Report - Tunisia

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 1 September 2011
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Tunisia, 1 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b7aa99fc.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Area: 163,610 sq. km.
  • Population: 10,630,000
  • Language: Arabic
  • Head of State: Fouad Mebezaa (acting)

Tunisia was the starting point for the revolutions that shook the Arab world in 2011. The era of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali came to an end with his departure into exile on 14 January after a month of popular protests. For 23 years, his government had kept a tight control on information in the traditional media then on the Internet. Six months later, freedom of the press is a reality but Tunisia's media have seen little change. No new TV or radio licences have been granted. The behaviour of the security forces towards media workers is the same as ever.

A popular uprising drove out the Tunisian president on 14 January after a month of protests. The provisional government of national unity, which took over the reins of power three days later, abolished the information ministry.

The blogger Slim Amamou, released from detention four days earlier, was appointed secretary of state for youth and sport. He resigned from the post a few months later.

The new government immediately advocated complete freedom of information and expression as a basic principle.

The media

Tunisia has two state-run television stations, Tunisie 7, renamed Télévision tunisienne nationale, and Télévision tunisienne 2, which succeeded Tunis 21. There are two privately-owned stations, Hannibal TV launched in February 2005 and Nessma TV which started up in 2007.

However, Tunisians have their eyes turned towards the Arabic satellite stations, mainly Al-Jazeera which has played a pivotal role in reporting the popular uprising.

In the radio sector, there are four national state-run stations, five regional ones and five privately-owned ones, whose licences were granted to associates of President Ben Ali – among them Mosaïque FM, launched in November 2003, Radio Jawhara, which broadcasts in the Sahel region, Radio Zitouna, set up by Ben Ali's son-in-law and which carries religious programmes, and Shems FM.

Independent stations which broadcast clandestinely under the previous government such as Radio Kalima and Radio 6, are awaiting finally to have their broadcasting licences approved, as are others launched since the fall of Ben Ali.

In the print media, newspapers and magazines in French and Arabic abound. The same titles available previously can still be found, but their content is quite different and they are no longer filled with the praises of the former president on a daily basis. The French-language press is once again being published normally.

Press freedom

Print media and television now tackle subjects they ignored during the Ben Ali era, such as social problems. Even the highly official news agency TAP has changed its tune. Although some heads have rolled, most editorial staff have kept their jobs, however. Those who previously defended the Ben Ali government have turned into revolutionaries and pioneers of change.

Enjoying a new freedom of tone, some news organizations sometimes forget their professional ethics for the sake of sensationalism or deference.

Furthermore, new taboos seem to have emerged, some even stronger. Abuses committed by the police and the army, cases of corruption among the former president's associates who are still in Tunisia, or the difficulties faced by the present government receive little attention in the media.

In May and July this year, 15 journalists were violently assaulted by the security forces while they were covering demonstrations. These attacks brought back bad memories, as if the old methods had returned just four months after the fall of Ben Ali.

In addition, Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi issued a worrying statement in July blaming the press in part for the prevailing political and social instability.

Censorship of the Web reappeared in May, when some Facebook pages were filtered as part of an order issued by an examining magistrate in the Tunis military court. The Appeal Court on 15 August upheld an order by a lower court banning access to pornographic sites.

The Tunisian Internet Agency was ordered to install a censorship and filtering system. The agency said it did not have "the financial and technical means to carry out the judgment" and it would take the case to the Supreme Court.

Updated 1 September 2011

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