Tunisia ‘rulers’ move their pawns to silence most watched TV channel
TUNIS - The broadcast of the programmes of the most watched television channel in Tunisia, Ettounsiya TV, was abruptly interrupted on Saturday evening to the surprise and bewilderment of the channel’s large audience.
The interruption was followed by the broadcasting of spots announcing the launch of a bouquet of three channels namely, "Ettounsiya al Oula "" Ettounsiya Sports "and" Ettounsiya News. "
Shortly after the incident, Imed Riahi, the lawyer of wealthy Tunisian businessman and leader of the Free Patriotic Union (UPL) political party Slim Riahi, announced on radio Mosaic FM, the severance of ties and the scrapping of the agreement with Cactus Production “due to unpaid instalments and financial abuse."
Reacting to this statement on the same radio station, TV host at Ettounsiya TV, Naoufel Ouertani, described the interruption of the broadcast as “a conspiracy of political nature.” He said that the alleged financial abuse is a falsehood, adding that there had been a simple delay in bank transfer which would not require, in any case, the scrapping of the agreement. "
Ouertani said that Ettounsiya TV would resume normal transmission soon, noting that the name of the channel, its logo, and programmes remain the exclusive property of Cactus Prod.
He also promised that the channel would reveal the truth behind the whole incident which he considered as the fruit of “a purely political scheming” aimed at silencing Ettounsiya TV.
Ettounsiya TV owner Sami Fehri remains behind bars. He was detained in August last year in a move NGOs denounced as an attempt by the authorities to silence their critics.
The Court of Cassation first ruled that Fehri be freed last November, but he remained in custody.
In its latest ruling, the court also referred the case back to a lower court.
Fehri gave himself up to the authorities last August after being charged with "illegal use of Tunisian state television resources" during the rule of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, at the risk of being jailed for 10 years.
His Ettounsiya television channel had aired a controversial satirical programme critical of the government.
Fehri’s detention last August caused uproar, notably because it came just days after he announced having pulled the satirical show "Guignols" (French for "puppets") under pressure from the Islamist party Ennahda, which heads the coalition government.