Tunisia Political Orientation
Government Type: Unitary Semi-Presidential Representative Democratic Republic
Head of State and Government: Kais Saied
Political Party: Independent
Political Position: Populist Right
MBFC’s Country Freedom Rating: 53.06 – Moderate Freedom
World Press Freedom Rank: Tunisia 121/180
Reporters Without Borders states that although Tunisia experienced press freedom gains since the 2011 revolution, these gains started deteriorating after the 2019 general elections. IPS (International Politics and Society) warns against populism in Tunisia and states, “populism is now the biggest threat to Tunisia’s democracy.”
Media Ownership and Government Analysis
TV is the most popular medium in Tunisia. Although media freedom increased after the 2011 revolt, it gradually deteriorated again, especially after the election of the current President Kais Saied, who extended his power by dissolving the parliament. Western media outlets criticize that he wants to become a one-person leader by transforming Tunisia’s political system. Recently, President Saied gave himself new judicial powers to “unilaterally fire and block appointments of judges.”
Historically, the public media were under direct government control, which continues. The most prominent public TV is El Watania, owned by the state. Tunisia’s media regulator is the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA -Haute Autorité Indépendante de la Communication Audiovisuelle). It is responsible for regulating and issuing television and radio licenses. It has nine members, with the President of the Republic appointing the President of HAICA.
The HAICA either imposes substantial fines or closes the critical media outlets based on violations. For example, according to The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate (SNJT), in July 2021, Police raided Al Jazeera’s Tunis office and shut it down. In November 2021, Tunisia’s media regulator HAICA shut down a number of media outlets such as the private Tunisian Nessma channel and Hannibal TV.
In Tunisia, many private TV and radio stations are owned by politicians or managed by political parties. For example, Nessma TV is owned by the former presidential elections candidate, Nabil Karoui, the Heart of Tunisia party leader. Al-Zitouna TV channel is close to the Ennahda party and critical of the current president, Saied. Saad Jaziri of the Errahma party owns the Holy Quran Radio station.
When it comes to the print sector, the state still directly owns or indirectly controls the print media. Print media was divided between publications directly owned by the state, such as La Presse and Esshafa, or privately owned but maintained their ties with the state, such as the Cheikhrouhou family (Assabah, Le Temps, and Al Ousboui).
In summary, the Government, directly and indirectly, controls Tunisia’s media; by regulating most radio, print, and TV stations, while other media outlets are owned and managed by political parties and politicians. Therefore, the media of Tunisia faces a lack of press freedom through direct and indirect censorship at the hands of the Government. Press freedom is on the decline in Tunisia.
Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by Media Bias Fact Check
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