Tunisian former president says authorities pressuring media

Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki speaks at a meeting to launch his new political party in Tunis, Tunisia December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Thursday accused authorities of pressuring a local TV channel to stop the broadcast of an interview with him, saying it was a case of state restrictions on media freedom.

Opponents of President Beji Caid Essebsi have accused him before of trying to concentrate power in his hands, six years after an uprising ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Marzouki, one of Essebsi’s most ardent critics, said in a statement that officials had pressured local Attessia TV not to air the interview. He did not give details, but his spokesman said officials threatened to cut public advertising.

Attessia chief executive Moez Ben Gharbia also said the channel was pressured by officials, and a local journalist union condemned what it said was government pressure tactics.

“Officials in the presidency and the government exercised pressure on the TV channel not to air the interview with Marzouki,” Ben Gharbia said in statement.

The presidency denied the accusations.

“We defy any journalist or producer of Attessia TV or journalist union to prove that the presidency pressed to prevent the interview,” said Noureddine Ben Ticha, a senior political adviser to Essebsi.

Since its 2011 revolution ousted Ben Ali, Tunisia has been praised as a model of democratic transition in a region troubled by violence and rights violations. One of the Arab world’s most secular nations, it now has free elections and a modern constitution.

But rights groups say some of the practices and abuses of the past still linger, such as police torture and state corruption.

Reporting By Tarek Amara