Journalists Demand Truth about Dangerous Excesses of Media under Ben Ali

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Statement on the Eve of 59th Anniversary of Tunisia’s Republic Day

On the eve of the celebration of Tunisia’s Republic Day, 25 July 2016, we, journalists and human rights defenders, the signatories of this text, express our deep concern about the excesses which imperil the most precious achievement of the Tunisian Revolution: the freedom of the press and the right of citizens to information.

We denounce political and media attempts to rehabilitate one of the leading symbols of the former regime: Abdelwahab Abdallah, who in the wake of the so-called "Comprehensive Reconciliation" Project, resurfaced in the heart of the Presidential Palace in Carthage, the highly symbolic venue of the State.

As minister of information under Bourguiba and political and media adviser to Ben Ali, Abdelwahab Abdallah imposed his omnipotent shadow on the media, during more than two decades. Absolute master of disinformation and propaganda, architect of the strategy of disintegration of the journalism profession, he played an active role in putting the profession and ethics of journalism on a tight leash and attacking most independent journalists.

Abdallah confiscated Tunisian people’s inalienable right to information. His role in establishing and managing the Tunisian Agency for External Communication (ATCE), a cornerstone of the government policy based on propaganda, intelligence, corruption and lies, has yet to be made public.

Five and a half years after the Revolution, various diagnoses identifying the plight and capture of the media under Bourguiba and Ben Ali have not led to the dismantling of the system that silenced independent journalism for decades.

Today, the supporters of such a system based on disinformation and corruption are merrily positioning themselves in the media, taking advantage of their positions to quietly promote Ben Ali. Others, well placed in the spheres of political decisions, turned themselves into licensed experts on “democratic media” reform.

Freedom of the press is threatened by cronyism, mediocrity, lack of professionalism, interference with media by dirty money, and between media and political and financial pressure groups; the same circle of people, who used to be the pillars of the "Abdelwahab Abdallah System”.

However, media reform, requested after January 14 January, 2011 and still ignored by the top official decision makers, inevitably requires that those who persecuted journalists should be held accountable. In fact, the transition process, which is related to two eras, may slide off its course and give way to autocratic rule or even dictatorship.

On the eve of Republic Day, we believe it is our right, as free citizens, to hold accountable those who committed the crime of disinformation and to demand the dismantling of their system.

As responsible citizens, we consider it our duty to take action until the truth is revealed and established about the dangerous excesses perpetrated during a past, with which we are asked to “come to terms.”

We commit ourselves to fighting to prevent the restoration of autocratic rule through the media, and defending press freedom and the Tunisians’ right to information, which constitutes one of the foundations of a democratic and civic Republic.

To sign the petition, please click here.

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