Tunisia TV head 'will go to prison with dignity' in satire row


The head of a Tunisian TV channel whose satirical show was abruptly pulled last week at a time of strained relations between the media and government Saturday denounced the issuing of a warrant for his arrest.

However, Ettounsiya director Sami Fehri also told the Express FM radio station he would not fight the warrant.

“A huge machine has crushed us to death,” he said of the Islamist-led government. “I would never have imagined it could happen like that. They have crossed every red line.”

The move comes days after protests by Tunisian journalists accusing the government of seeking to curtail press freedom and take control of the country’s media.

“I will go to prison with dignity,” Fehri told the radio station. A justice ministry official told AFP the order for his detention was issued late on Friday.

Official news agency TAP said Fehri was being charged with “illegal use of Tunisian state television resources” during the rule of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Fehri at that time had links with a media company close to Ben Ali’s family.

“This is all because of four puppets,” Fehri said of the satirical television program, which began this year and had focused particularly on members of the Tunisian government and its ruling Ennahda party.

The program was eventually taken off air under pressure from the authorities, Fehri told AFP earlier this week.

The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) accuses the authorities of seeking to control the country’s media.

On Wednesday it protested against the appointment of a controversial new director to the Dar Assabah press group, which the state took control of last year.

The SNJT on Friday gave itself two weeks to set a date for a general strike.