Following a vote by its extended editorial board, Business News has decided to boycott the 2022 general election. A meaningful decision, taken after careful consideration, which we explain here to our readers.
The debate was very lively on Monday 21 November during the weekly meeting of the extended editorial board. This extended committee includes all journalists from Business News and Business News Arabe, i.e. editors, videographers, comment moderators and community managers.
On the agenda is the coverage of the parliamentary elections that will take place on 17 December. The timing is calculated since the election campaign starts on Friday, November 25, 2022.
It was necessary to decide whether the paper should cover these general elections or not. Each of the members had to give a reasoned answer. The final decision rested with the editorial board, which consisted of the managing editor and the three editors-in-chief. This had to take into account the voices of journalists, the legal constraints, the political pulse and the fundamental right of the newspaper’s readers.
During this Monday meeting, the journalists were divided. Ditto for editors.
Those in favor of the cover made the main argument for the readers’ right to independent information. They emphasize the journalist’s professional and moral duty to inform the public about what interests him. They remember how Business News has covered the elections since 2011, how the newspaper has noted the many transgressions of the various candidates, the falsehoods and absurdities contained in several programs, the antics of some and the common sense of others. In each of these elections, the paper’s watchword was to defend the programs calling for a republican, secular and progressive Tunisia.
Journalists’ arguments against election coverage are no less reasonable. First of all, we note the new legislation and the famous draconian Decree Law No. 54 of September 13, 2022. Criticism of any candidate or of Isie exposes the journalist to penalties ranging from five to ten years in prison. This decree now prevents journalists from doing their job properly under ordinary conditions. Questioning Isie’s neutrality or its findings exposes us to the same penalties. In light of the implementation of the referendum on 25 July and in light of the arbitrary decisions taken by Isie in recent weeks, it is obvious to us that the 2022 general elections will not take place under normal conditions and that they will not go from all be characterized by the necessary transparency and integrity.
Among the arbitrary decisions taken by Isie, which prevent the regular work of journalists, we note the ban on broadcasting “exit polls” or even the self-assignment of Haica’s privileges, that is, media control. A decision contrary to the provisions of Legislative Decree 116, abusive and deviant, when we know that Isie has neither the knowledge nor the human and material means to control what the media broadcasts.
Even if the journalists of Business News decide to ignore legal intimidation and bravely face Legislative Decree 54 and the decisions of Isie, it is technically impossible to comply with the mandatory neutrality regarding the 1058 candidates. . Which of the candidates will we relay the words or interview? Who will we ignore and why? Which regions will we cover? Do we have the right to make fun of one and not the other? And the candidates? Do they deserve special coverage, those who are extraordinarily underrepresented in these general elections. As a reminder, there are only 122 women in these legislative elections.
Not only is Legislative Decree 54 libertarian and dangerous, but the election law itself, as well as the arbitrary decisions of Isie, prevent coverage that adheres to professional standards and ethics.
By going to a vote, the majority of those present vote boycott. No one cries victory, we were 100% upset. The final decision, however, rests with the editor-in-chief and the three editors-in-chief, who give themselves four extra days to think about it.
These four days were useful, because in the meantime the Journalists’ Syndicate reacted to reject Isie’s decisions. Ditto for Haica.
Despite the controversy, Isie continued to go it alone, dismissing the company and the legal watchdog. By disregarding Haica’s rights and violating the rights of journalists, Isie sends a clear message to all Tunisians: ” I will do what I want with these choices “.
With all these elements in mind, convinced that these elections will be characterized by numerous irregularities, even fraud, and noting that journalistic work is no longer protected by law, the editorial board of Business News ended up deciding to boycott the parliamentary elections in 2022. Isie and Kaïs Saïed’s regime wants to convince the population that these elections are transparent and democratic, good for them. We can neither deny them, nor write and demonstrate that it will be an election campaign. We take note of it.
However, there is still a fundamental point that needs to be addressed. What to do with the reader entitled to official information and how to draw his attention to the hypothetical grotesque manipulation of the regime? After reflection, it was decided to pass on any official information regarding the general election (especially the decisions of Isie, the results, etc.), but these will all be stamped with the word ” propaganda “.
Technically, the word means ” Systematic action exerted on public opinion to make it accept certain ideas or doctrines, especially in the political or social field ” (Larousse).
Theoretically, the wise reader should be skeptical of this official information, which is not endorsed by the newspaper that disseminates it.
This is a militant stance by Business News in what they consider to be an election campaign. We refuse to be complicit in what we believe is a biased process. We sincerely hope that our readers will understand this position.