Tunisia/ 4.2 Recent policy issues and debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

The media sector is not amid the responsibilities of the Ministry of Culture, despite the importance of the media in the communication and promotion of cultural products and its direct relationship with the mobility of cultural and social development. And till 2010, the State monopolized most of the broadcasting and media sector with the liberalization of the press sector since independence.

The State owns the Tunisian Radio and Television company , which includes 2 national television channels (National channel 1 and national channel 2) and ten radio channels (National radio, International radio, youth Radio,  Cultural radio, Religious radio,  in addition to the five regional radio stations: Sfax, Monastir, Gafsa, Tataouine, and KEf). Unlike the movies and series, 100% of television, national and regional public radio stations programs  are Tunisian including cultural programs.

The State funds documentaries dealing with cultural and artistic topics with a clear focus on cultural heritage, reflecting the government's policy of promoting cultural heritage and tourism marketing. The private sector has a complete freedom in the choice of programs without any responsibility toward the promotion of Tunisian art, theatre, or literature, with no special procedures for production. In 2003, the State strategy for the audiovisual media shifted from monopoly to gradual privatization, and several private TV and radio stations started broadcasting namely: radio Mosaique FM, radio «Jawhara FM» in 2005, private satellite channel «Hannibal» in 2005, radio Zitouna for religion in2007, with Tunisian/Maghreb channel "Nessma TV", which broadcasts via satellite.

In 2006, began the broadcast of public radio dedicated exclusively to culture, “the cultural radio” and focus on a large number of cultural news, topics and debates.

Since 2011, the audiovisual landscape (television and radio) underwent a remarkable development, especially after the issue of Decree 115 of 2nd November 2011 on the freedom of press, printing and publishing , the issue of Decree 116  2nd November 2011 on the freedom of audiovisual communication and the establishment of an independent supreme body for audiovisual communication. The media sector has known high tensions with governments stemming from NCA to enforce these 2 decrees that represented the first building blocks for a media environment that promotes freedom of  press and audiovisual and support their independence and journalists. On 3rd of May 2013 which coincides with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, it was announced the establishment of the High Independent Committee for Audiovisual Communication[1] as an application of article 7 in Decree 116 for 2011 and matters related to Committee members salaries were defined in Decree 2013-3110. Even during 2013, Decree 115 was not yet applied by the Government and was the cause of continuous protests by journalists, especially through the national syndicate of Tunisian journalists[2]for the implementation of this Decree.

Based on this new and independent framework for printed and audiovisual media in Tunisia, the number of TV channels and radio stations[3]has grown to 15 radio channels (including regional radio stations) and to 20 television channels[4] mostly broadcasting via the Nilesat sattelite, with several radio and TV broadcasting on the Internet. There are also radios exclusively broadcasting on the Internet among them local radio stations such as “Radio Sidi Hassine” and " Radio Ibn Khaldun" that broadcast from the two common neighborhoods with the same names. They were created within a program in youth sector[5]that aims to strengthen the role of regional media in local development. In 2012, a study on media in Tunisia was elaborated by UNESCO to analyze Tunisian media sector according to international standards and to identify its needs and new opportunities for development[6]. In addition, new associations concerned with the follow-up of media issues were created among them “Tunisia center for press freedom”[7]in 2011.

In relation to printed press, the sector of newspapers and magazines underwent substantial evolution after 2011 in terms of quantity and quality, and are gradually entering a development process for improving news and information quality, sector practices and the online digital press. Examples of daily independent newspapers: “ Echourouq” (in Arabic), “Assabah” (in Arabic), “Al-Maghreb” (in Arabic), “ La Presse”  (in French), and “Le Quotidien”(In French). Amongst pending issues in the written media are the channels of distribution that are owned by a few number of private companies and presents a monopoly situation for distribution. The distribution chain needs more regulation and gradual liberalization.

For cultural and arts magazines, several magazines are facing difficulties in their publication due to financial difficulties and reducing purchases by public entities and ministries, after 2011,  including the Ministry of Culture (a kind of indirect support), among them “the seventh art” “Itihaf” “ Mirror of the Centre – Mir’at Al-wasat” magazine[8]. Current Cultural magazines are: "Cultural Life" magazine (published by the Ministry of culture), the magazine "art" (published by the Ministry of Culture – returned after 8years of absence),Magazine "Essadiqiya” (issued by the Association of former students of the school Essadiqiya).

In spite of these positive developments in the media sector during the transition phase, "Reporters Without Borders" (RSF) has shown  in its annual report on press freedom in the world the drop of Tunisia of 4 ranks from 2011 in the global rating scale for ranking to be ranked 138th  in 2013[9]. The report attributed this change, as highlighted in the report, to the repeated attacks on journalists and to the political pressures on media.

For the population having access to media, 98%Of Tunisian families own a TV, 92%of households receive satellite broadcasts, and 19 % households are connected to high band Internet network and 18% of households own a home PC[10]. This is accompanied by the development of mobile services and mobile Internet. This data implies the access of Tunisians to foreign broadcasting channels and contributes the diversity of media content. It must be noted that most of the content in Tunisian media is in Arabic or French, and the Tunisian international radio channel broadcasts programs in several languages:  Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish and English.

The African Centre for journalists and communicators training in Tunisia provide training sessions for journalists in their respective areas, including transitional justice, investigative journalism, and professional standards in media. In one of the civic initiatives that emerged in early 2011, an association, in cooperation with other American associations, elaborated a program  the "citizen journalist" within the project "Speak out Tunisia"[11]"Ya Tounes Abbir!" and presented an innovative attempt to promote the citizen as principal an actor in media.

It should be noted that the popular uprising of Tunisia in 2011 was mainly based on news and photos that were exchanged on social networks through the Internet , and it has played a key role in news following and the mobilization of people . As a result, several social network sites became platforms for news, partisan or non-partisan propaganda, coordination of protest movements and shaping public opinion (political or social critics). Internet freedom is one of the most important and sensitive issues being tracked by public opinion in Tunisia. It is considered as one of the important means that boosted the success of the people uprising in opposition of censorship and the restrictions imposed by the previous regime at that time with regard to the freedom of the Internet by blocking Web sites and information flow. On the 6th November 2013 Decree5406 was enacted creating the Technical Agency for communications which is described as follows "... Technical agency for communications provides technical support for forensics in cybercrimes and for this purpose it is mandated the following tasks:

-          Receive and process search permissions and investigate cybercrimes issued by the judicial authority in accordance with the ongoing legislation,

-          Coordination with various public telecommunications network operators and service providers with respect to the tasks assigned to the Agency in accordance with the ongoing legislation,

-          Use of national systems to monitor communications traffic within the framework of respect for the international tools concerning human rights and the legal frameworks for the protection of personal data. "


The creation of this new institution has triggered divergent views, between those expressing the fear of becoming a new tool to monitor Internet free communications, and between those considering its essential presence to support the security system in controlling and tracking crimes through electronic systems.

[1]Press release : Tunis / the establishment of the High Independent Committee for Audiovisual Communication ( Al Masdar e-newspaper 4/05/2013 ) http://www.turess.com/almasdar/16174

[2]National syndicate of Tunisian Journalists site : http://www.snjt.org/

[3]Radios in Tunisia ::http://medias.marhba.com/

[4]Satellite Tunisian Tvs : http://www.satexpat.com/pays/tunisie/

[5]“ Inauguration of 2 new web radios” ( e-journal African Manager 1/04/2013) at : http://www.africanmanager.com/149183.html

[6]« Assessment of media Development in Tunisia » The International Programme for the Development of Communication – UNESCO 2013 at : http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002227/222701e.pdf

[7]Tunisian center for freedom of Journalism site : http://www.ctlj.org/

[8]Blog of Mahmoud Horchani ( Tunisian writer and journalist , founder of the Magazine Mirror of the Center) at : http://gamarnews.blogspot.com/2013/02/blog-post_127.html

[9]Report on Global classification in 2013 for annual indicator for freedom of Journalism (Reporters Sans Frontieres) (in French) at: http://fr.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/classement_2013_fr_bd.pdf

Chapter published: 05-05-2015