Tunisia: Yes to Press Freedom, No to Misinformation

Tunis, 15 February 2018 –
The undersigned NGOs condemn the smear campaign launched by the privately owned Tunisian TV channel Nessma against 47 Arab and international human rights groups for backing, in early February 2018, a call on the government by local rights groups to withdraw its draft law on a new broadcasting regulator from the Parliament.
We consider the participation by an adviser to the minister for Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights in a 7 February Nessma talk show, which launched this smear campaign, as implicit support.  As well, the show breached basic journalism rules and ethics in not giving voice to different opinions.
The talk show host handpicked three guests known for their support to Nessma TV, which has been turning its back since 2011 on the most important standards for broadcasting regulations in democratic countries and disparaging, since 2013, the decisions of the current regulator, the Independent High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HAICA).
We, the undersigned, are proud of our good relations with other independent Arab and international rights groups, which are based on the principles of solidarity and commitment to oppose violations of the right to freedom of expression.
We underscore that these rights groups, the majority of which belong to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), have no allegiance to governments, as the Nessma TV talk show host and his guests insinuated.  A number of their leading members are currently persecuted and jailed, including Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).
We note that the IFEX network has been supportive continuously, since the darkest era of oppression under the previous regime, of Tunisians yearning for democracy and liberties, particularly the right to freedom of expression.
We caution against the risk of the continuous use of media outlets as platforms to misinform public opinion and place the interests of self-serving commercial or partisan groups above public interest, and of groundlessly accusing rights groups of “hurting Tunisia’s sovereignty” and inciting “foreigners to meddle in Tunisian affairs.”
The Undersigned:
  • Arab Society for Academic Freedoms
  • Association of Tunisian Women for Research on Development
  • The Committee to Respect Liberties and Human Rights in Tunisia
  • IWatch
  • Tunisian Association for Academic Values
  • Tunisian Association for Alternative Media
  • Tunisian association for Democratic Women
  • Tunis Center for Press Freedom
  • Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
  • Tunisia Forum for the Press and Access to Information
  • Tunisian League for Human Rights
  • Tunisian Organization against Torture
  • Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

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