Tunisia Press

The Tunisian flag

Tunisia’s press is partly Arabic and partly French. The state news agency TAP reports in Arabic, French and English. The largest French-language newspapers are La Presse and Le Temps, their Arabic counterparts Essahafa and Alchourouk. Numerous new newspapers appeared immediately after the political upheaval. Meanwhile, however, their number is significantly decreased. There are also numerous private French and Arabic language information portals on the Internet.

According to ethnicityology, the Tunisian television has two state channels (Al Wataniya 1 and 2, formerly TV 7 and Canal 21). They broadcast in Arabic. Al Wataniya 2 has a stronger focus on regional issues and is aimed more at a younger audience. There are also various private television channels that are very successful. Al Jazeera broadcasts a special program for the Maghreb every evening in the Arabic program.

The state radio has several regional and national stations, including RTCI, the main program of which is broadcast in French (with one-hour programs in German, English, Spanish and Italian). There are also several private radio stations, some of which can be received nationwide and some regionally. With the exception of the religious program Radio Zitouna FM, these broadcast in Tunisian dialect. Mosaique FM and Shems FM are general entertainment channels, Express FMhas an economic focus. For all private TV and radio stations that were founded before the revolution, it is true that they were originally close to the old regime and in one way or another were close to the Ben Ali / Trabelsi families. For example, Shems FM was run by Cyrine Ben Ali, a daughter of the ousted president.

Since 2011, citizens’ radios have been set up all over the country, some of which broadcast on the Internet and some on FM in a mostly limited area. They play an important role in accessing information, as Tunisia has no noteworthy local and regional press and most national broadcasters hardly provide any information from the various parts of the country. The freedom of the press has increased significantly since then. However, there are always setbacks. Journalists and observers fear that freedom of the press and freedom of expression may be restricted again in the context of the fight against terrorism. On the list of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders, Tunisia remains 72nd out of 180 (2020).

Social media, especially Facebook, play an important role as a source of information for many Tunisians.

The Tunisian flag

Media reform

The press was strictly regulated under the Ben Ali government. Opposition journalists were harassed, tortured and sentenced to prison terms through staged trials, such as reports from the Tunisia Monitoring Group from IFEX. Inconvenient domestic media were often deprived of advertising customers, so that funding collapsed, and foreign press either failed to deliver critical articles or was bought up in large quantities if they did hit the market. Press cards and accreditations for foreign journalists were only available from the ATCE Department for Foreign Communications, which was subordinate to the now disbanded Ministry of Communications. She closely monitored the journalists. Tunisians were officially only allowed to speak to foreign media with prior state approval, so reporting was virtually impossible if journalists did not want to provide the government with an excuse to arrest unpleasant opposition members.

The situation of journalists has improved significantly since 2011. However, journalists are still harassed, albeit to a much lesser extent than before.

Since January 14, 2011, the media landscape has been becoming increasingly dynamic. Among other things, twelve new licenses for radio stations were awarded, ten of which will not be based in Tunis, but in different regions of the country. In addition, numerous new daily and weekly newspapers and magazines appear. New television stations have also received licenses, but are not yet on the air. The working conditions for journalists have improved significantly. However, there are still isolated attacks by the security services on journalists and free access to information is not always guaranteed. The regulatory authority HAICA started its work in 2013.

In the winter of 2013, a law was passed establishing the so-called Technical Telecommunications Agency, which aims to combat cybercrime. Many activists fear that this will also open the door to censorship again.

The ATCE destroyed after January 14 large files stocks, but worked with old staff under a new name by the end of 2011 on. It was officially replaced by a communications unit subordinate to the Prime Minister. Journalists in Tunisia must still be able to identify themselves with a national press card, accreditation and / or filming permit in order to be able to work.

With the increased threat from terrorist groups and the associated security discourse, some media have returned to the government’s course, so that the fear of a return of the propaganda is increasing. Freedom of expression is also still restricted, according to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.