Today, the National Committee of Information and Communication Reform (INRIC) released its final report. The report included ten chapters, proposing a set of recommendations to the government and to stakeholders in Tunisian media.
Founded in March 2011, INRIC is an independent commission that was established to create an open and transparent media sector in Tunisia.
Comprised of a group of Tunisian journalists and experts, INRIC sought to pass legislation ensuring the separation of the media from the government. “Media should act as a real fourth power able to serve as a watchdog to the government,” stated INRIC president Kamel Abidi during a press conference held today to mark the publication of the report.
Since the October 23 elections, relations between the government, the Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), and INRIC have been strained. Both the SNJT and INRIC have repeatedly expressed their discontent over what they considered to be the government’s attempts to expand its authority over the media sector.
Abidi critiqued the current government’s performance concerning its interactions with the media, and described some of its decisions as “incompatible with an elected and democratic government.”
“The government entangled itself with media when it appointed the directors of public media last January,” he stated.
Abidi also cited the government’s interference with religious radio station Radio Zitouna as being among its failures. Prior to her dismissal by the prime minister, Ikbal Gharbi, the appointed director of Radio Zitouna, was ensnared in a legal battle with Mohamed Machfar, a former adjunct director of the station. She accused Machfar of inciting a group of individuals to threaten her physically and prevent her from reaching her office after she was assigned to the post by the government.
“Ikbal Gharbi was fired and replaced the same day the court upheld her her right to retain her job as the director of Radio Zitouna,” stated Abidi, referring to the government’s ultimate decision to dismiss Gharbi despite the court’s ruling.
Last Saturday, two days before INRIC released its final report, the government organized a conference to brainstorm means of reforming Tunisia’s media apparatus.
However, INRIC member Neji Bghouri dismissed last Saturday’s conference, describing the government’s initiative as a “masquerade that brought together the same faces that participated in building the propaganda around Ben Ali.”