Tunisian Islamists end Al Wataniya TV sit-in
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 27/04/12
Islamist protestors on Wednesday (April 25th) ended their nearly two-month sit-in targeting Tunisian journalists after receiving harsh criticism from human rights groups and a formal request from the Tunisian government.
The "Campaign of Free Tunisians to Cleanse the Media of Shame", which began their sit-in on March 2nd at Al Wataniya, called for reforms that would "regulate financial and administrative corruption and to fire anyone who made pro-Ben Ali propaganda", AFP reported.
Prior to the resolution, human rights groups stepped up the pressure and called for immediate government intervention after the Salafist protests turned violent on Monday.
A number of protesters taking part in the "media purge" insulted and cursed female journalists as well as placed a sign reading "For Sale" on the wall of the national television building, Al Wataniya journalist Fatine Hafsia told Radio Tunisie Culture.
What started out as a shouting match ended in scuffles that resulted in injuries to five people on Tuesday, according to AFP.
In response to the nearly two month sit-in, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) issued a statement strongly condemning the behaviour of protestors. "The attacks came in the wake of statements made by Ennahda leaders… Rachid Ghannouchi and Ameur Larayedh… on the privatisation of public media," it read.
The SNJT said it would hold "Ennahda, the minister of interior, and the Tunis primary court prosecutor fully legally responsible for the on-going and repeated attacks on journalists and workers in the media sector," and that "it will take all the necessary actions to protect journalists, to stop the attacks on them and to hold the attackers accountable."
Scores of journalists, technicians and workers representing the national television unions came together April 23rd to condemn the campaigns of violence targeting their employer.
"Those bearded men tried to attack me opposite my work place in the television," Leila Brahem, a technician, said bitterly. "They broke my car and we can no longer work under these pressures."
"The attack on journalists working at the state institution is an attempt to turn against one of the national sovereignty institutions," journalist Walid Hamraoui, who was also attacked, said. "If this continues, we will have two options: either to defend ourselves given the collusion of security forces with them or to stop working."
The national television unions condemned what they billed as "continued chaos, sabotage and aggression on the institution". They called on all parties concerned to shoulder their responsibility by taking the necessary legal actions and threatened a general strike.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian Association of Young Journalists (ANJJ) in a statement demanded the government "shoulder its responsibility" and to "stop these practices immediately".
In response, the interior ministry confirmed that it would contact the public prosecution to put an end to the sit-in.
"This step was made to preserve the security of both television workers and protesters taking part in the sit-in," interior ministry spokesperson Khaled Tarrouche said.
The Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) also issued a statement condemning all forms of violence against journalists, rights activists and artists.
"We voice our extreme alarm over the aggravated violence, which threatens an outbreak of mental strife and a culture of commotion, which would undermine civil peace that is a prerequisite for the good democratic transition," LTDH said.
Jaafer Beakhal, a rights activist, said that this protest was "not spontaneous", rather it was derived from an "intellectual mind-set and strategic foundations establishing a unilateral opinion to contain the entire sector". He added that the political community "understands the reality of situation and knows that the media war is the most important war and foundation of the democratic course."
"The battle is more comprehensive; it's against the media, academics thinkers, unionists and against everyone," he said.
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