Head of Ennahda Rached Ghannouchi (AFP)


Ennahda Party sues journalists; Journalists’ Union rejects intimidation

The Ennahda Movement’s decision to take legal action against journalists and the local media has sparked controversy in Tunisia.

While Ennahda believes that taking legal action will “put a halt to the campaign of distortion being waged against it,” advocates of freedom of the press believe that it would be “better to address the issues amicably without recourse to the judiciary.”

The movement, which is part of the government coalition, decided on Friday to sue “persons and media organizations involved in campaigns of systematic distortion against it,” a statement from the movement said.

The Ennahda movement makes a distinction between stinging political criticism and acceptable criticism. Criticism is a legitimate right, but one cannot remain silent in the face of the systematic targeting of the movement, which affects not only the party, but also people and leaders when the haranguing infiltrates into your home. This haranguing systematically targets Ennahda and has nothing to do with freedom of the media or the freedom to criticize. Our only solution is to refute it and to distance ourselves from this negative approach. We have considered the circumstances of the country, the difficult transition to democracy … See more at https://www.facebook.com/imen.tabib.1987/posts/185698285521410

The movement believes that the decision to pursue legal action is intended to “defend the achievements of the revolution by ensuring a clean democratic environment and a professional free press that respects the intelligence of Tunisians and serves the national agenda and to defend the movement and its contributions in the service of Tunisia.”

A movement leader, MP Meherzia Labidi, said that the leaders of Ennahda “have demonstrated their equanimity in the face of campaigns of defamation and accusations of intimidation.” She told Maghreb Voices that “remaining silent in the face of these accusations could be interpreted as tacit approval of the accusations.”

Responding to accusations that the movement is moving to “muzzle dissent,” Labidi said that “Ennahda regards the press as the primary protector of freedoms in Tunisia, but Ennahda cannot condone the large number of fabricated charges, which damage the dignity and esteem of party members.”

Muzzling of Dissent

On the other hand, organizations that defend freedom of the press rejected the legal actions taken by the Ennahda Movement.

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement condemning Ennahda’s recourse to legal action against of a number of journalists and media organizations.

Reporters Without Borders believes that Ennahda’s decision is a “dangerous threat to freedom of expression,” stating, “A few weeks before the elections, we should remind Ennahda Party that journalists are playing a pivotal role in the future of democracy and must be able to carry out their media mission with full independence and without fear of prosecution.”

The Tunisian Journalists’ Union issued a statement rejecting what it described as attempts to frighten and intimidate journalists: “Threatening journalists, inciting against them, and intimidating them with legal action – all these actions serve only to intimidate, muzzle dissent, and restricted freedom of expression and the press.”

“The Tunisian experience has confirmed more than once that a free press that makes mistakes and has its failings is much better than an opaque, propagandistic, prescriptive press …and the place for discussing journalistic activity is the media and public forums, not the courts,” the union stated.

A member of the union’s executive office, Mohammed Yacine al-Jalasi, said that “it was possible to overcome the outstanding issues in collaboration with the concerned parties in the media instead of resorting to the judiciary.” He told Maghreb Voices that “the union is entitled to reject policies of intimidation directed against journalists.”

This story originally appeared on alhurra.com. (February 13, 2018)