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A censored Media Landscape during the Ben Ali regime

The Ben Ali dictatorship was a very difficult time for the media. These were suppressed and censored: no opposition TV or radio station was allowed, the regime monopolized the media space. All were forced to relay propaganda imposed by Ben Ali, for example to put his photos on the front page.

Relatives of the regime ran all public stations. From the 2000s, private TV and radio stations were allowed, but they were also controlled by family members of Ben Ali or people close to the regime. In addition, the editorial content was systematically controlled by the government, through the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Communication, or the Tunisian External Communication Agency (ATCE) which was a tool of propaganda, disinformation and repression during the dictatorship of Ben Ali. The ATCE used the distribution of public advertising to support or punish certain media. After the Revolution, the Ministry of Communication and ATCE were dissolved.

Media diversification since the revolution

The 2011 Revolution, which brought the departure of Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, was a turning point for the country. Free elections were held and a new constitution was adopted on 26 January 2014. Public media are no longer considered a relay of state propaganda, despite certain shortcomings. These changes enabled a new freedom for the media and a new legal and institutional framework. In 2011, the very repressive Press Code of 1975 was repealed in order to enact three new decree laws (No. 41, 115 and 116), promoting freedom of press, the creation a new regulatory body - the Independent High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA). 

A still fragile liberty

Tunisia is thus in a process of opening up the media landscape, seeking to develop more independent and diverse media. These changes have increased freedom of the press in the country: attacks against journalists decreased, and Tunisia gained 38 places in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders since 2011. However, this new freedom is still threatened and several challenges continue to exist. On 17 October 2012, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) called for a general strike of journalists to "defend freedom of the press and of expression," and to request the application of the decrees 115 and 116. They also criticized the considered arbitrary appointment by government of new people to the management of public media. 

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