Abd Al-Khaleq Al-Azraq, a journalist at the Tunisian Broadcasting Corporation since 2013 and the former editor-in-chief of the Tunisia Times. Since 2018, he has overseen the coordination of tunisiachecknews project, which aims to combat fake news and is supervised by the Independent High Commission for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) and including numerous media organizations.
In an exclusive interview European Eye on Radicalization, Mohamed Yassin al-Jalasi, the head of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists, a body that safeguard’s the state’s democracy and upholds citizen’s freedoms by bringing attention to areas of concern in the country, said that the recent decisions taken by President Kais Saied are a natural product of the deterioration of the political, social, and economic conditions in the country.
Al-Jalasi views the Ennahda Party, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, as bearing the largest share of responsibility for this situation because of its activities in power over the last decade, most recently its support for the “failed” government of Prime Minister Hisham al-Mashishi, not to mention the ongoing corruption and the brutality in responding to popular demands.
Al-Jalasi says that the Tunisian President has provided him with several guarantees about the continuation of the democratic transition, the preservation of rights and freedoms, and the time-limited nature of the current state of emergency.
Asked about the argument that President Saied’s decision threatens freedom of expression and the press, Al-Jalasi rejects it categorically, saying that the safety and functioning of the media remains intact and freedom of expression remains an indivisible principle. Al-Jalasi acknowledges some qualms about the Tunisian police’s handling of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari state satellite television network, but he also pointed out that the Brotherhood—and its advocates like Al-Jazeera—pose their own problem for a free press.
Ennahda moved quickly after the 2011 revolution to try to control the media in Tunisia, and has created its own media channels that pump out a uniform stream of often-inflammatory propaganda that does great harm to the information space in Tunisia.
Pressed on the point of his confidence in the President’s assurances, Al-Jalasi noted that the President had met with a delegation of national organizations, including his National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists, on 26 July, and the consultations were sincere and the promises public; nothing is guaranteed in life, but the delegation came away much less concerned than it went in.
The major issue, Al-Jalasi concluded, is a concern about the monopoly of power; while the decisions taken fall within the constitution, it has left President Saied with a lot of power in his hands. Those gathered were assured this is a temporary necessity, said Al-Jalasi, adding that the President should lay out a roadmap and reassure the public opinion, at home and abroad.