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Tunisia: Media sector crisis continues, entering decisive phase

Image of Tunisians protesting and holding banners in support of missing journalists [file photo]
Tunisians protesting and holding banners in support of missing journalists [file photo]

The closure of Tunisian media outlets and the expulsion of journalists working for them, most recently the private newspaper Assarih, caused a great deal of anger among Tunisian media professionals who demanded radical solutions that preserve their rights and the rights of their colleagues who have become jobless.

Journalists working for the Tunisian daily newspaper Assarih were surprised earlier this month at its shutting doors without prior notice, when they went to work.

Assarih newspaper said that it was forced to close its office because of the great difficulties that press in Tunisia and the world has known due to the high prices of raw materials for the newspaper industry, especially paper, ink and printing plates. This is in addition to the deterioration of the dinar and the economic crisis that the country is facing, which seriously and unprecedentedly deepened the crisis of all Tunisian newspapers and prompted many of them to stop publishing.

Read: Tunisia journalists protest ‘erosion of press freedoms’

Financial difficulties and weak government

This is not the first time that a Tunisian media organisation closed its doors without informing employees. Since the 14 January revolution, dozens of newspapers, websites, radio stations and television channels have been closed due to “financial difficulties” mainly due to “deteriorating economic conditions,” as their owners claimed.

In contrast to the explanations given by the owners of media outlets that closed, Tunisian journalists have confirmed that the reasons are mainly related to the absence of censorship, and allowing everyone to have the right to establish a media outlet without taking into account the rights of employees and complying with conditions.

In this context, the Tunisian journalist, Saleh Al-Atwi attributed the media owners’ excesses mainly to the gaps in the conditions of opening a media outlet in Tunisia, in addition to the absence of the High Independent Authority of the Audiovisual Commission’s (HAICA) censorship on the licensed media.

“I worked for two years in a private radio station. The working conditions were very tragic. There were no legal contracts, the salaries are low and anyone who calls for a settlement of his legal status is frozen and expelled,” Al-Atwi told AlKhaleej Online about his personal experience. “The radio manager told some of the working journalists: You can go to court and file complaints against me,” added Al-Atwi.

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