Thank you, thank you very much for this outpouring of solidarity. Thanks to my friends, real and virtual, thanks to my journalist colleagues, Tunisians and foreigners, thanks to the parties and national and international organizations, thanks to the political personalities, thanks to my loyal readers, my team and my partner. Thanks to all these people imbued with values, rights and justice. I won’t quote anyone, it’s almost an impossible mission, so many of you were from all sides. It allowed me to face the ordeal with high morale. This solidarity and this recognition is a treasure more valuable than all the gold in the world.
As you know, on Monday I was summoned to the Crime Squad following a personal complaint lodged by the Minister of Justice and this following a journalistic article published in Business News. The article in question takes stock of Najla Bouden’s thirteen months at the head of the government (click here to read the article).
The journalist is not above the law. He’s not under either. When there is a specific law governing a trade, you cannot appeal to a general law. However, the Minister of Justice appealed to Decree 54 liberticide, dated September 2022, rather than Legislative Decree 115 on freedom of the press, printing and publication.
It was enough to trigger a big and beautiful wave of support. There are countless press articles, broadcasts and press releases supporting Business News, his team and myself. The reason for this controversy is that this complaint by the Minister of Justice represents a real turning point in Tunisian political life and in the relationship between the authorities and the media.
Two days later, one of the main opposition figures, Fadhel Abdelkefi, was banned from traveling without any explanation. A controversy later, he learns that he is the subject of an S8 measure, that is, a court order that prohibits him from traveling. However, it should be noted that Mr. Abdelkefi was not summoned by any judge and that he was not even aware of a case against him.
In this country, in the midst of an economic, social and budgetary crisis, we are experiencing one anachronistic controversy after another. Instead of finding solutions to the problems that plague the people, Kais Saied’s regime attacks opponents and the media.
Asked on Friday by Chaker Besbes on Mosaïque FM, the President of the Republic accused the media of slander and invited them to have freedom of thought first and foremost. Vague words that mean nothing. According to the president, the dictatorship the media is talking about does not exist.
On the sidelines of the Francophonie summit, Kaïs Saïed had a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, after which the latter declared: ” I think it is very important – and I know the president is very vigilant, we talked about it earlier – that there is a reconciliation on the subject of political freedoms and media freedom of expression.. “. Assuming Mr. Saïed hears.
What reconciliation is the French president talking about and what should the relationship between media and power be?
In all the countries of the world, including the dictatorships, the government has a communications cell and a communications director responsible for supplying the media (and thus the public) with information.
In dictatorships, the cells dictate the information and media broadcast. It’s called propaganda. The fact is that in these dictatorships the communications directors have direct relationships with the media directors and certain journalists to frame them and tell them what should be published and what should not be published.
In Tunisia, neither the Presidency of the Republic nor the Presidency of the Government has a Director of Communications. That is, we have not even reached the level of dictatorships.
In democracies, media directors and certain journalists have privileged relationships with communications directors and have direct access to governments. Often, very often, ministers and presidents invite these opinion leaders to one-on-one meetings or limited meetings to explain to them their policy, their strategy and their vision on a given issue. These meetings are often informal and their content is not public. Their official goal is to provide journalists with a background that allows them to then provide analysis based on facts and information and not on hypotheses and intox. The unofficial goal is the manipulation of these media (and thus the public).
Both before and after the revolution, there have always been direct exchanges between power and media, but this has no longer been the case since July 25, 2021.
The reason is that Kaïs Saïed, rightly or wrongly, believes that the media are part of this satanic machine of occult lobbies, that they are paid by who knows which antechamber or which party, and that they are corrupted by the money of evil. capital or even foreign powers (eg British money).
He then ordered Najla Bouden to follow the same strategy as him.
This is a first in the history of the country, and if we exclude the military junta, it should be a first in the world.
The result of this total absence of the regime’s communication policy is that the media no longer have the raw material (the information) and no longer have an explanation of what the authorities are doing (the background).
Through his total ignorance of the basics of political communication and his refusal to establish relationships with opinion leaders, Kaïs Saïed has created a tense climate of misunderstandings with the private media. The public media are already under his boot and have become real propaganda tools with taxpayers’ money.
In Kaïs Saïed’s mind, Tunisia is a democracy. Quite the opposite of what the media thinks. Instead of inviting them to a tete-a-tete, as all the presidents of the democratic world do, to explain to them how he sees things, Kaïs Saïed walled himself up in Carthage and refused any dialogue. He starts from the blunt principle that he is the leader, that everyone owes him obedience, and that he is not responsible to anyone.
This may have been true in the 15th century, but it is no longer, Mr. President!
He no longer supported criticism, afflicted with the authoritarian syndrome, up in his ivory tower, he established Decree 54, which punishes, up to ten years in prison, any dissenting voice.
Kaïs Saïed is in his logic. All he said was good feelings. He cannot admit that the media does not share his opinion and follow what he says.
Instead of explaining his approach to them, applying the basic rules of communication sciences, he chose the strategy of the stick, believing that he would succeed in silencing the private media as he succeeded in doing with the media.
Sir. President, if you are thinking of silencing the media like this, you are kidding yourself.
Independent journalists and media directors who have chosen this profession are not afraid of prison. They are also not looking for money, otherwise they would have invested elsewhere.
To get what you want from the media, there is one and only method, and it has been tested all over the world, in dictatorships and in democracies, you have to communicate with them. You have to talk directly to them in small circles and in direct interviews. You have to explain your limitations and your approach to them and convince them. If they are convinced, they will forward your message. If they are not, they will criticize you without animosity and malice.
And tell yourself that no one in the world has managed to convince everyone, not even the prophets.