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Tunisia accused of media blackout, threatened with protests

December 17, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on December 15, 2021 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

The Executive Office of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) warned yesterday that there is an imminent danger that threatens the freedom of the press, media and expression.

It said that it comes “as a result of the escalation of the media blackout and the flagrant violation committed by the presidencies of the republic and the government against the right of journalists to obtain information.”

It accused the Presidency of the Republic of “deliberately excluding local and foreign media and preventing them from keeping pace with official activities, the most recent of which was the joint press conference held on Wednesday at Carthage Palace between President Kais Saied and his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.”

Tunisia’s president Kais Saied is bleeding the country – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

The presidency “required that no question be directed at Saied,” the statement explained, describing this as a “dangerous precedent” and “blatant interference in the freedom of journalistic work.”

The office revealed “a series of protest movements to defend freedom of the press and expression, the right to access information.”

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September and a government has since been formed.

The majority of the country’s political parties slammed the move as a “coup against the constitution” and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. Critics say Saied’s decisions have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government, and that he aims to transform the country’s government into a presidential system.

On more than one occasion, Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, said that his exceptional decisions are not a coup, but rather measures within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from “imminent danger”.

Will Tunisia’s President Kais Saied manage to answer these questions?