Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Riahi and Ettounisya

Slim Riahi, founder of Tunisia's secular-free market Free Patriotic Union political party, has purchased the country's main news station:
Ettounisya is a popular television station that, like most of its Tunisian competitors, devotes a large amount of airtime to political talk shows. It was established shortly after the 2011 revolution and now is the most-watched channel in Tunisia, according to Tekiano. Its financial situation has come under scrutiny with the ongoing legal proceedings against the channel’s director, Sami Fehri, who has been held in jail for months on corruption charges...
These issues have come to the fore in the debate over the creation of a body to regulate the Tunisian media. The creation of the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) was called for in a November 2011 law. The statute calls for a nine-person body representing the Tunisian government, the journalists’ union, and the audiovisual communications industry. The HAICA would be tasked with regulating the Tunisian media sector, supervising the media during electoral campaigns, and nominating directors of public radio and television stations.
Riahi insists he will not try to influence the channel with his political agenda, but others question why he would acquire the station given the poor economic state of the television industry.  I sincerely hope that the media environment of the Arab world does not come to resemble that in Iraq, where all major media outlets are little more than mouthpieces for the different political movements, which of course contributes to entrenched social divisions.

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Blogger jmeasor said...

Hi Brian,

I understand the basis of your concern; media concentration and the control of information as well as agenda setting are critical in democratic societies.

However, I wonder if it isn't time to abandon liberal precepts of a 'profession' of journalism in the new media environment - as a relic of a relatively short historical period's commitment to 'neutrality' following the Second World War - and more importantly allow for the opening of the media space to as many voices as it can tolerate.

Riahi may well tie the media arm to himself or his party, but hasn't it always been so?

FOX, CNN, MSNBC ... NYT, Guardian, WaPo ... who lives to such a lofty standard. Better to set our sights on an achievable and local solution.

All my best,


2:39 PM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...

Fair points

4:50 PM  

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