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'Political tendency is to deny press freedom,' say Tunisian journalists

The leader of the Tunisian Journalists' Syndicate has accused political groups of having a "tendency" to deny press freedom. Naji Baghouri made his comments during a seminar on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day last Wednesday.

"The reality shows that the authorities have backed away from the philosophy upon which the Constitution was based and which aims at the distribution of power between executive institutions and independent constitutional bodies, similar to the High Independent Authority of the Audiovisual Commission (HAICA)," explained Baghouri. "There is a clear will to re-establish control over media structures and the media landscape, through draft laws that actually contradict with the principles of freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information."

According to the head of the HAICA, Nuri Lajmi, "Seven years after the revolution, we have started to notice a certain decline in freedom of expression, which is reflected mainly in some distorted official speeches in the media, as well as draft laws that threaten the gains that have already been achieved."

Imad Al-Hazki, meanwhile, said that, "A new bill to protect personal data, which is being prepared by the government, will constitute a violation of the principle of access to information because it does not distinguish between private personal data and data contained in public documents that relate to public affairs." The head of the independent National Authority for Access to Information stressed the need to review this bill in order to preserve the gains made regarding access to information approved by Tunisian law.

Tunisia: Media sector crisis continues, entering decisive phase

A report by Reporters Without Borders ranks Tunisia 97th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Press Freedom Index, which is the same ranking it occupied last year. The Tunisian Centre for Freedom of the Press has revealed that nearly 70 per cent of Tunisian journalists do not have access to information even though in 2016 the state parliament ratified the first law to allow access to information from the authorities.

The government in Tunis, however, announced earlier its commitment to allow journalists to have access to information so as to keep citizens informed through the best protocols. It explained that this would happen within "the ethics of public officials" — guidance issued in 2014 — whereby information or official documents on subjects of interest to the public will not be disclosed without the prior permission of the duty official's immediate supervisor.

Read: Tunisia journalists protest 'erosion of press freedoms'

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