TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia’s Islamist-led administration is to launch an Internet television channel to try to get its message across, a minister said on Thursday after reporters at state media went on strike to protest what they called government attempts to impose control.
Tunisia’s once-staid media has enjoyed a new lease of life since last year’s removal of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, but activists accuse the government, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, of now trying to restrict freedom of speech.
The 1,200-member members of the Tunisian journalists’ union, including staff at state television channels and news agency TAP, went on strike in protest on Wednesday. There were no newspapers for sale on Thursday, but journalists had returned to work.
“We decided to launch Kasbah TV on the Internet in order to end the isolation of the government in local media and be able to provide information to citizens about the achievements of the government,” Economy Minister Rida Saidi told reporters.
He said the channel would be launched at the end of the month.
Journalists have demonstrated outside the office of the prime minister in the past year to demand an end to restrictions on media freedoms after the appointment of government officials to state television positions.
The government has denied accusations it is seeking to stifle the media, but has repeatedly criticized what it says is a lack of coverage of the president’s and prime minister’s activities.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali last week threatened to stop giving interviews or making statements to state television.
In a leaked video posted on the Internet recently, Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi was heard telling puritanical Salafis in a secret meeting that “secularists still control the economy, the media and the administration”.
Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Jon Hemming