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Tunisia press syndicate says state TV bars political parties

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By Reuters
Tunisia press syndicate says state TV bars political parties
Tunisia press syndicate says state TV bars political parties   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

TUNIS – Tunisian state television has barred all political parties from entering its buildings or taking part in talk shows in a serious setback for press freedoms, the country’s press syndicate said on Tuesday.

Mehdi Jlassi, the syndicate head, told Reuters the apparent ban had been in force since President Kais Saied seized most powers in July in moves that his foes have branded a coup.

He said it was the first time such a ban had been in place since the 2011 revolution that ended the autocratic rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and introduced democracy.

Government and state television officials were not immediately available for comment.

Jlassi said: “Since July 25, there has been a political decision to prevent all parties from entering television…, which is a very dangerous and unprecedented matter that seriously threatens freedom of the press and perpetuates individual power.”

In July, Saied dismissed the government and suspended parliament, saying these were necessary steps to stop the state collapsing after years of political party feuding and policymaking paralysis.

He has started preparing a new constitution that he says he will offer to a referendum in June.

Since Saied’s intervention, the state television channel al-Wataniya has featured no political guests, On Monday he criticised local media, saying they “lie, lie like news bulletins”.

Only state media representatives were invited by the presidency to a press conference with the Algerian president last month.

However, the state news agency TAP still issues coverage critical of the authorities and gives space to the president’s political opponents. Wataniya’s main news bulletin has covered protests against Saied.

Saied, who became prominent as a law professor appearing on media shows to talk about the constitution after 2011, says he respects all freedoms and rights and will not become a dictator.