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Tunisia body slams ban on press coverage of parliament's opening session

A group of people gather outside to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]
A group of people gather outside to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

The Tunisian High Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) has criticised the ban on media coverage during the first session of Tunisia's new parliament, considering it a "dangerous indicator for the reality of press freedom" in the country.

On Monday, the newly elected parliament held its first session. Only journalists working for state television and the official news agency were permitted to attend the session.

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In a statement, HAICA said the right to information and access to information are guaranteed in accordance with the constitution and laws.

It pointed to the "importance of the role of media oversight and its effectiveness in exposing abuses, including practices that were recorded in the previous parliament."

HAICA called on journalists to "hold on to their role and solidarity in order to guarantee their independence and freedom to perform their job and resort to the profession's charters and ethics."

The ban on journalists entering the parliament building is the first since the revolution that ousted the late dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

On Tuesday, the vice president of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists, Amira Mohamed, said that preventing journalists from carrying out their work freely in covering the opening session of the new parliament was an "attack" on "Tunisia's image".

The new parliament convened amid political forces' rejection of exceptional measures initiated by President Kais Saied on 25 July 2021, by dissolving the old parliament and the Judicial Council, issuing legislation by presidential decree, approving a new constitution through a referendum, leading to early legislative elections.

The majority of the country's political parties slammed the move as a "coup against the constitution" and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. For his part, President Kais Saied said his measures are "necessary and legal" to save the state from "total collapse".

A number if political and civil groups refuse the formation of the new parliament, especially as the election saw a voter turnout of under ten per cent.

READ: Tunisia sentences 2 to death in suicide bombing near US embassy

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