Tunisia: New authorities fail to issue broadcast media licences
Reporters Without Borders deplores the failure of Tunisia's new authorities to issue any broadcast licences in the six months since President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's ouster. They are supposed to be building a new, free and democratic Tunisia, but no democracy will be possible without truly independent media.
The Tunisian broadcast media landscape has not been renewed. No licences have been awarded, either to media that already operated clandestinely under President Ben Ali, such as Radio Kalima or Radio 6, or to proposed new media for which an application was filed after the old regime fell on 14 January.
"We know that a transition of this scale cannot happen overnight," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. "But the absence of media freedom was one the leading characteristics of the old regime and there is an urgent need for a complete break with this sad heritage.
"The content of the media changed after Ben Ali's departure and this is an encouraging evolution. But the creation of new media and the legalization of those that are still broadcasting without a licence are now really urgent. Administrative and procedural issues must not prevent full realization of one of the revolution's most important demands - freedom of expression."
Tunisia's new authorities must lose no more time in accepting their responsibilities to the media, including those that are already broadcasting. The future of Tunisian democracy is at stake. The Information and Communication Reform Authority that was set up three months ago cannot wait until after the constituent assembly election on 23 October to issue these licences. The election campaign must be covered by media that reflect the diversity of views in Tunisia.
The head of Radio Kalima, Omar Mestiri, began a hunger strike on 21 June in protest against the current impasse and the prime minister's failure to keep promises he made publicly. Mestiri intends to continue his hunger strike until Radio Kalima gets a licence.