Eight Tunisian journalists have ended a hunger strike over government interference in their Dar Essabah press group, ahead of talks with the authorities, one of their colleagues said on Monday.
"The negotiations will start tomorrow afternoon. They stopped the hunger strike to see what happens in the talks," Essia Atrous, an employee of Arabic-language daily Essabah, told AFP.
The hunger strike, began on October 1, was the latest protest against the appointment of Lotfi Touati as the new director of Dar Essabah because of his close links with the ruling Ennahda party.
"Touati is unqualified, and he wants to interfere in the editorial line of the newspaper," striker Monia Arfaoui told Tunisia Live. "Right after his nomination, he suspended the editor-in-chief of the newspaper."
"This is a fight for freedom of expression and the independence of the media sector in Tunisia," Arfaoui said. "The problem has become political now."
The talks on Tuesday will bring together representatives of the editorial staff at Dar Essabah, which owns Essabah and French-language newspaper Le Temps, Social Affairs Minister Khalil Zaouia and trade union leaders.
Journalists and editors have accused the Islamist-led government of seeking to control the editorial content of several public media groups, including by appointing new directors without consulting their staff.
Editorial staff at Dar Essabah, which the state took control of after last year's revolution, demand the removal of Touati, who they consider too close to the Islamists and who is accused of having assaulted journalists.
Last week, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali pledged to guarantee press freedom and resolve the heightened tensions between government and the media.
The National Union of Tunisian Journalists supports the strikers' demands and has called for a general strike on October 17.
Source: DCMF, AFP