Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Tunisian state television has banned parties from entering buildings or participating in talk shows, the press syndicate said.

Tunisian state television has banned all political parties from entering its buildings or participating in talk shows in a serious setback for press freedom, the country’s press syndicate said.

Syndicate chief Mehdi Jlassi told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the apparent ban has been in place since President Kais Saied most powers seized in July in moves that his enemies had branded a coup.

Jlassi said this was the first time such a ban had been imposed since the 2011 revolution that ended the rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and instituted 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 case that seriously threatens press freedom and perpetuates individual power.”

In July, Saied fired the government and suspended parliament, saying it was taking steps to prevent the state from collapsing after years of political party feuds and policy-making paralysis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

He started preparing a new constitution which he said he would present a referendum in July.

The vote will take place following an online public consultation starting in January. Parliamentary elections are also expected to take place at the end of 2022.

But since Saied’s intervention, the state television channel al-Wataniya has had no political guests. On Monday, he criticized local media, saying they were “lying, lying like news bulletins”.

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

However, the state news agency TAP continues to issue coverage that is critical of the authorities and gives space to the president’s political opponents. Wataniya’s headline bulletin covered protests against Saied.

The envoys from seven Western countries plus the European Union last month encouraged Tunisia to respect “fundamental freedoms” and set a timeline for a return to democratic institutions.

Saied’s seizure of power in July 2021 has garnered support from many Tunisians who are tired of political parties considered deeply corrupt and unable to resolve the country’s deep social and economic woes.

He has since faced mass demonstrations and growing accusations that he is becoming a new dictator.

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

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