Tunisian journalists have expressed their displeasure at what they view as the government’s attempts to control the media, by taking part in a day-long strike on Wednesday.
The strike was called by the National Union of Tunisia Journalists (SNJT) on September 25 following the refusal of the government to meet journalists’ demands and the appointment to senior positions within the media of close allies of the governing Ennahda party.
This is the first strike to be organised by the union, and officials said it came about after all avenues of discussion with government authorities had been exhausted.
SNJT chairwoman, Néjiba Hamrouni has consistently spoken out against the government, and blamed them for a "slowdown in the reform of the sector and threats to freedom of speech and the press in Tunisia.”
Various media outlets participated in the strike, including state TV and radio broadcasters.
Agence Tunis Afrique Presse published the list of thirteen demands put forward by the union, which range from demands to ensure that freedom of expression, of the press and of creation without any reservation are established in the new constitution, to other more specific details regarding working conditions at various outlets.
The State Radio broadcaster, Radio Tunisienne, carried a report on its website explaining that the station had participated in the strike to show solidarity and support for the media sector and for press freedom. The station also chose only to run news headlines, and broadcast a number of programmes dedicated to the subject of press freedom. The statement concluded by asserting that freedom of the press is not only important for journalists, but is a right for all citizens and should be guaranteed as such.
State television channel Al Wataniya Tunisia 1 also announced that its evening news broadcast would only feature headlines and no anchor would appear during the transmission.
Support for cause of press freedom
Earlier this month, the Arab Journalists’ Union called on all journalists in the region to support the “legitimate claims” the Tunisian media are making, arguing that more needs to be done to provide protection to journalists in the country.
Journalist unions further afield have also expressed solidarity with the strike, including the National Union of Journalists from the UK and Ireland, who delivered a letter to the Tunisian embassy in London, urging the government to separate editorial and administrative responsibilities. Yesterday they tweeted their support for their peers in Tunisia:
Others have taken to social networks to express their support for the strike:
DCMF expresses support for Tunisian journalists
Doha Centre for Media Freedom expressed solidarity with the journalists on strike, and echoed their calls for a separation between editorial and political appointments as well as a guaranteed free media.
"DCMF supports the journalists if Tunisia, some of whom are also on hunger strike, for their efforts to establish true press freedom in their country."
"The centre insists that representatives of journalists and civil society should be involved in providing nominations for public media appointments. The new government in Tunisia seems to be operating with an old minset, similar to its predecessor, as far as controlling state media is concerned, and DCMF urges them to adopt a new strategy in this regard."
The centre recently published a special report focusing on the development of the Tunisian media following the revolution which deposed former Prime Minister, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, highlighting the strained relationship between journalists and their government.
Source: DCMF, TAP