In a communiqué issued yesterday, Mohamed Meddeb, the new CEO of the Tunisian Radio Company, the organization in charge of all Tunisian public radio stations, announced his decision to dissolve the editorial boards of member stations.
Meddeb said that he refused to abide by “nonexistent laws,” citing decree law 115, which is the press code crafted by the post-revolutionary media reform body INRIC.
The editorial boards were the product of a collective decision made after the revolution by journalists working in public media, with the goal of avoiding interference from the national administration in the editorial lines of stations, something they viewed as a problem prior to the revolution.
“The general administration of the Tunisian Radio Company, which does not interfere in the editorial line of the journalists of Tunisian radio, will not allow these illegitimate bodies to exist without any legal bases to serve personal and partial interests,” reads Meddeb’s statement.
The editorial board released a statement today, condemning what they called a “systematic campaign conducted by the CEO of the Tunisian Radio Company to attack the elected editorial board.”
Ali Brahmi, a journalist and a member of the editorial board of the National Radio, told Tunisia Live that the CEO does not have the right nor the power to dissolve the editorial board.
“We elected our first editorial committee last February 19th. We organized new elections last week, and we elected new members. He cannot say that our existence is unlawful, because Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali mentioned many times that he is committed to the idea of organized editorial boards. This is how La Presse [a state owned Tunisian daily newspaper] is run now. I don’t think that Mr. Meddeb has more power than the Prime Minister,” said Brahmi.
Brahmi also said that this is not the first time the CEO has tried to interfere in editorial decisions.
“He has been trying to interfere in the editorial line. For example, he wants to assign certain journalists to cover certain events. He also canceled a show, Ain ala al-Hadath [Eye on the Event], without consulting with us. In short, this man wants to take us back to the Ben Ali era,” added Brahmi.
Meddeb described the editorial boards as a group of journalists who used to be affiliated with the former corrupt regime.
“They [the members of the editorial boards] belonged to the previous regime, and they supported it. It is proven. Some of them have nothing to do with journalism,” reads the statement.
Ali Brahmi told Tunisia Live that he is personally taking legal action against Meddeb for defamation.
“He attacked us in his statement and during a radio show on Tunisian Cultural Radio. This is alarming; today our CEO used the cultural radio to serve his interests and expose the dirty laundry of the organization. No one did that before. He cannot use a public facility for personal reasons,” added Brahmi.
Abdelhak Tarchouni, deputy secretary general of the Union of Radio Workers, stated that the controversy was due to a miscommunication between the editorial board and the CEO.
“We are working on resolving that issue. We are organizing a meeting between the journalists and the CEO next Wednesday. Both sides need to talk and tackle the problems Tunisian radio is facing,” he said.