One of Tunisia’s best known television programs was suspended for three months earlier today by HAICA, the country’s independent regulatory agency for audio-visual programs.
The suspension comes in the wake of a controversial episode of Al-Hiwar ettounsi’s “Andi Monkolik,” which featured the story of a 17-year old girl who was the alleged victim of numerous sexual attacks.
The regulating body cited a number of reasons for issuing the suspension, most involving the girl’s status as a minor. Anyone under the age of 18 is not authorized to appear on a television program without either parental consent or legal authorization, the report noted, and Tunisian law strictly forbids any release of information involving the rape or sexual harassment of minors, whether by intentionally disclosing the name or otherwise identifying the victim. (Contrary to some media reports, the girl was 17 at the time of the broadcast.)
While the girl’s face was blurred during the episode, both her father and brother were present alongside her, which HAICA ruled could have endangered her by potentially jeopardizing her anonymity.
Alaa Chebhi, the embattled host of the program insisted at HAICA’s proceeding that he was unaware of the girl’s status as a minor, and relied solely on information provided to him by his team.
HAICA also referenced the host’s unauthorized disclosure of the guest’s medical report as a point of contention, as well as his suggestion that the alleged rape victim was herself at fault, and that she should “(marry) the rapist” as a solution.
For days, Chebbi has been at the center of nationwide criticism for his behavior, which was seen to trivialize and belittle the experience of the alleged rape victim.
Speaking to Tunisia Live on Tuesday, however, Chebbi insisted: “I did no wrong, and I have nothing to apologize for.”
On Thursday following HAICA’s ruling, Chebbi said that Al-Hiwar ettounsi and “Andi Monkoli” had reached an agreement that no further public comments would be made at this time.
Al-Hiwar ettounsi has agreed not to rebroadcast the episode and has pulled its content from all social media accounts.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.