Head of Tunisia TV suspended for decapitated head picture

Mustapha Ben Letaief has been scrutinized for allowing El Wataniya 1 for including a picture of teenager’s severed head in a news bulletin

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The Tunisian government said on Sunday it had sacked the head of state television, after the channel broadcast a picture of the severed head of a teenager beheaded by extremists.

A statement said that Prime Minister Habib Essid appointed Rached Younes as caretaker head of the Tunisian Television Corporation, replacing Mustapha Ben Letaief.

It gave no reason for the decision, but it comes a day after the Tunisian journalists’ association slammed El Wataniya 1 for including a picture of teenager’s severed head in a news bulletin.

The boy, a shepherd aged 16, was beheaded on Friday by extremists who had accosted him and his cousin on a mountainside in the central province of Sidi Bouzid.

Officials said they handed the youth’s head to his cousin and told him to return it to his family.

The journalists’ union said the family kept the head in their refrigerator “until the arrival of security” officials, and that El Wataniya 1 broadcast a picture of it on its 1200 GMT news bulletin on Saturday.

The union said El Wataniya 1 had committed a “major professional error,” and urged journalists generally to respect the rules of “covering terrorism.”

The motive for the boy’s grisly murder is not yet known.

His murder was first reported by the mayor of Sawar Soultaniya in Sidi Bouzid province and later confirmed by a senior provincial official.

On Wednesday, the al-Qaeda-linked group Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigades posted a video online in which it claimed the beheading of two other shepherds in the central province of Kasserine.

The group claimed that the shepherds were spies in the pay of the security services.

Authorities blame the Okba brigades for a spate of violence in Tunisia which has seen a surge in radical Islam since veteran president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a 2011 revolution.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group claimed an attack that killed 38 foreign tourists at a seaside resort near Sousse in June, and another that killed 21 foreigners and a policeman in Tunis in March.