Tunisia's media regulatory authority has forbidden the rebroadcasting of a controversial episode of a talk show featuring interviews with people close to Kamel Gadhgadhi, a suspect in a political assassination who was recently killed by police.
The Sunday episode of Liman Yajroo Fakat (For He Who Dares), hosted by journalist Samir Elwafi, has been accused of breaching journalistic ethics in its coverage of Kamel Gadhgadhi, who was killed during a standoff with security forces February 4.
The Ettounsiya station has been blocked from airing it again by the High Independent Board of Audiovisual Communication (HAICA), a newly-formed independent body regulating broadcast media, according to a HAICA statement released Tuesday.
Elwafi was criticized for presenting terrorism in a positive light and soliciting the audience's empathy for Gadhgadhi and suspected terrorists.
Justifying terrorism in one way or another is not acceptable, HAICA president Nouri Lajmi told Tunisia Live.
The show featured a phone interview with the father of Gadhgadhi, a suspect in the killing of leftist politician Chokri Belaid in February 2013, as well as in the deaths of eight military officers last July. Gadhgadhi was portrayed as a well-mannered, educated man, and also called a martyr by a conservative preacher during the show.
Elwafi told radio station Shems FM that the show was flawed and expressed his apologies to the families of security officer martyrs, security officers, and all the nation's martyrs. He also stated that the mistake should not be blown out of proportion.
After the broadcast, Lajmi met with Elwafi and presented him with violations the authority accused him of committing, according to the HAICA statement.
The breaches mainly focused on the lack of respect for the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in particular Chapter 6 thereof, relating to the right to life and the lack of respect for pluralism of ideas and opinions, according to the HAICA statement.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a 1966 United Nations treaty enshrining basic rights and liberties. It does not mention media coverage of suspects of violent acts.
Lajmi explained the ruling by saying the presentation of a terrorist in the image of a martyr or as oppressed is an assault to the right to life of people killed by terrorists.
Elwafi and the show's producer have committed to refrain from rebroadcasting or publishing the episode, according to HAICA's statement.
Hichem Snoussi, a member of HAICA, explained on radio station Mosaique FM the reasons behind blocking Sunday's episode of Elwafi's show.
When addressing issues such as violence incitement, white-washing, or calling for violence, the journalist should intervene to show that this violence or terrorism is rejected by Tunisian society, and that this presents a huge danger to the whole transition, Snoussi told Mosaique FM.
The journalist should know how to direct his show, Lajmi told Tunisia Live. He should be able to stop the speakers when they veer.
There is a social responsibility, Lajmi said, when addressing hundreds and millions.
HAICA reacts to complaints it receives, explained Snoussi. This was the case with Liman Yajroo Fakat, which drew a big reaction in media and in civil society, Snoussi said.
Tunisia's main journalists' union, the SNJT, did not defend Elwafi or Ettounisya. The union instead issued a statement agreeing with HAICA's criticism of the coverage.
There is no neutrality with terrorism and terrorists, the enemies of Tunisia, and the enemies of freedom and democracy, the union's statement said, denouncing Elwafi's abuses.
Lajmi said that while nothing was off-limits for broadcast journalists, some issues need to be covered carefully.
There are no taboo subjects, Lajmi said, but there is a way to treat them.