Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Tunisia faces dilemma in anti-jihadist campaign

23 July 2014, 14:13

Tunis - Tunisia has hit back at a deadly jihadist attack on troops by closing mosques and media outlets seen as sympathetic to extremists, raising fears of a return to the censorship of the old regime.

In the wake of a 16 July attack which left 15 soldiers dead in Mount Chaambi near the Algerian border, the authorities have laid down a "red line" against criticism of the army and police.

The government announced the immediate closure of mosques which had fallen out of the control of the religious affairs ministry.

It has also decided to shut down unlicensed media outlets which had "turned into platforms for takfiris and jihad," referring to apostasy charges against fellow Muslims.

Growing challenge

Hailed as the poster boy of the Arab Spring - the wave of uprisings that swept the region from 2011 - the authoritarian regime of Tunisia's longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a popular uprising that year.

But now with a growing challenge from jihadists, long repressed under Ben Ali, the government is facing a double challenge.

The authorities are working to restore the "prestige" and "authority" of a state weakened by the 2011 revolution.

They also aim to curb the Islamist rhetoric which has found an outlet in a media landscape that has exploded over the past three years, with many broadcasters operating unlicensed.

Rights groups are warning against curbs on liberties that were hard-won after years of Ben Ali's dictatorship, urging a balance between anti-terror measures and freedom of information.

Reject 'red line'

"The country is going through a very difficult time and politicians are under pressure," said Rachida Ennaifer of Tunisia's audiovisual regulatory body HAICA.

"But the fight against terrorism should not be arbitrary or populist. If we want a state of law, we must respect the law," she told AFP, pointing to the dilemma faced by authorities.

Ennaifer said the government's decision to close a pirate radio and a television station was not taken in consultation with HAICA, contrary to what the authorities said.

The head of Tunisia's journalists' union, the SNJT, Neji Bghouri, told AFP that he rejected "any red line".

"What does this expression mean? If in the future a journalist wants to carry out an investigation into corruption in the police or army, what will happen?" he asked.

He proposed "self-regulation" of the media, something which he admitted would need time because Tunisia's free media was in its infancy.

His union last week hosted a meeting of several media outlets to develop a "charter" on how to cover terrorism-linked events.

'It's not easy to recover a mosque'

On the religious front, the closure of "outlaw" mosques has also divided opinion in the North African nation.

"The decision ... is wrong because it's going to increase popular support for the terrorists," said Mohamed Ben Salem, a senior official in the moderate Islamist movement Ennahda, the main party in parliament.

"Change the imams operating outside the law, that's the solution," he said.

Religious Affairs Minister Mounir Tlili hit back, saying "it isn't easy to recover a mosque" in the face of the often "violent" reaction of its users.

But Tlili vowed not to return to the practices of the Ben Ali regime.

Some in Tunisia, fearful of the jihadist threat, shrug off concerns over the possible erosion of civil liberties.

"Stop talking to me about human rights," Ferid al-Beji, a popular imam, or prayer leader, said on private television station Nessma, a day after the Mount Chaambi attack.

"We are fighting for our lives. Whoever talks of human rights at this time is an accomplice in terrorism," he said.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
New IEBC bosses to be named Novem...

New IEBC bosses will be named on November 30. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
DP Ruto has spoilt my name, activ...

DP William Ruto has spoilt my name, activist complains. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Apologise for attack on Auditor G...

Apologise for attack on Auditor General, President Uhuru Kenyatta is told by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Quit if you can't fight corruptio...

An MP has told President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit office if he cannot fight corruption. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Investigate Uhuru, Ruto for corru...

Investigate President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto's offices over corruption, CORD leader Raila Odinga has said. Read more...