Kim Badawi

Editorial Assignments: Le Monde: "Free Tunisian Media"

Much has changed in Tunisia since the Jasmin revolution of January 2011. During the regime journalists only enforced President Ben Ali's propaganda while any attempts to free press where under attack. Today many of the journalist of the old regime are now unemployed while advocates for free expression, such a Bensedrine, and founder of Radio Kalimat - the first Skype radio, twitters and bloggers have now become viable sources for information.

Reportage by Annick Cojean.

How to begin the story of this strange journey, mid-April, the Tunisian press of the post-revolutionary? And what images to retain more accurate to describe this area devastated by twenty-three years of dictatorship, total control of power, censorship and self-censorship, intimidation, gag, asphyxiation? The fever is still there, a remnant of euphoria. Immense pride, collective, getting rid of a hated despot. Bubbling energy and ideas. But also, how can I say? A kind of bewilderment, anxiety and a hollow. A desire to do battle, to exist, to see a difference, to be worthy of time, movement and issues of this crucial period leading to elections. Ballasted, unfortunately, a bad hangover, a mixture of frustration and insight, remorse and doubt, fear of not knowing, not power, not being at the height of the challenge today ' Today in History, the hopes raised in the Arab world.

So? The images, words and jostle one hesitates to order. Start with the admirable Bensedrine, a journalist and tireless defender of human rights, hunted, oppressed, arrested under Ben Ali, now celebrated on TV shows, but still conscious of being threatened and anxious about the developments? Relay the impatience of the young professionals who come to gather in the National Association of young journalists to proclaim their willingness to write a new page of history and assert their desire for independence, but remain worried about the survival of the networks Ben Ali, and sound the alarm, eager to help and training? Play Olfa Belhassine, journalist at La Presse de Tunisie, the great French government newspaper, telling the dark years of schizophrenia and the tremendous surge of demand and dignity it now expected by all his colleagues? Or tell the incredible faith, with a lot of tears, grimaces and tears of Abdelaziz Jeridi, one of the hired pens most menial of Ben Ali, who now fights his guilt, ask forgiveness of those he has insulted, vilified and covered in mud? Ah! Great moment! And amazing spectacle. If we had not known the horrors that he published every day for years in its low-end and newspapers with wide circulation (Al Hadath and Kol Ennas) could be moved. But what credit should be given to a man who, overnight, so does an about-face, he who, until the fall of the dictator, never ceased to sing the praises, obsequious, and uttering the worst insults against all dissenters to the plan, up to publish obscene photo montages to the soil and to demonize them?


Let's hear it anyway. It is in the landscape. And if his "repentance" is singular, it indicates an era and a clique which, to be more discreet and now adorn clothes and words of revolutionaries nonetheless present. To find us in downtown Tunis, and we trust what he describes as "an intolerable burden and terrifying," he dropped a fishing trip at sea, a passion of his weekends. And for nearly two hours, wiping his brow, fidgeting, sighing, divided between short sobs and big laughs scoundrels, he will tell the story of a descent into hell.

"For twenty years I was held hostage by a gangster, the puppet of a criminal gang which, like a cloud of locusts sweeping across a crop has continued to loot the entire country: land, sea, sky, industries, culture, Newspapers. I messed own people, I humiliated decent people, I accepted a job as a scoundrel. And I lost my soul. I was like a mollusc, private core, column, thought. A thank you from the uneducated, bloodthirsty despot. Emptied from within. I lost the esteem of my wife, and old friendships. I am isolated in refugee alcohol and cigarettes. Up to four packs a day. I could not look anyone in the eye. I have nothing, if not shame. The shame of having done so many, including Bensedrine. For my pen. "

Slave pen of the former regime, Abdelaziz Jeridi ask forgiveness from those he has slandered.


The slide was swift, "he said. The first three years of the reign of Ben Ali left a little hope. But "the nebula mafia" was quickly formed and the tabloids have been a prey. "Ben Ali has demanded the release available on pages 2, 4 and 5 of the newspaper in exchange, the ATCE [the Tunisian External Communication Agency], who ran the propaganda and advertising budgets of businesses and public institutions, offered me 3000 dinars (around 1,500 euros) per week pub. They did what they wanted with the state pub Seen the price of paper, however, I was losing. But who would dare sue against the government? "

Articles on pages 2, 4 and 5 reached him so every Saturday in a large envelope delivered by a biker or a car of the presidential palace. It was called "freelance," says the boss, who discovered each week, he claims, papers libelous, defamatory, signed his own name, he announced to the "A". "One evening in 1998, obsessed with the World Cup soccer, I forgot the famous envelope. It was not long before I found myself in prison and a 300 kg balèze twisted my two fingers as if shelling shrimp, I promise to smash the others. I understood that they held me and if I did not want something to happen to my son - charges of drug trafficking, accident car, anything was possible - he had to accept the system. I'm not a superman! " Certainly not. "This has done Ben Ali is worse than war. After a war, we rebuilt. Here, the vice meddled everywhere. That is his legacy." The situation is terrible, shared by many, but the confession as the pardon applications disgusted as many personalities, disgusted by these tears "crocodile". Some want to bring to justice the defamatory articles. Others require the accounts of these "old mercenaries" who have received money for disinformation and slander the opposition.

"Far be it from us to create a witch hunt," written especially Taieb Zahar, editor of the magazine Realities in an editorial. But it "seems imperative, when we just dissolve the political police, to see what the 'brothers' who were paid to the informer. There were daily reports in return for benefits of all kinds. C is only at this price we will talk about stabilizing the sector and we can distinguish the good from the bad. This is the price that finally we will distinguish the real journalists mercenaries who, taking advantage of this revolution , trying to find a new virginity. We demand the truth. "

Olfa Belhassine, she also considers beneficial to the profession that an inquiry will shed light on the strategies implemented by the former regime to stifle journalists. "It was probably one of the darkest eras in the history of contemporary media," said the journalist's pen elegant and punctilious honesty. "Ben Ali newspapers ridiculed and humiliated journalists. The more adventurous of us, anxious to balance and ethics, and we were broken sombrions in a kind of lethargy. Impossible to describe real life. The poverty there no, no unemployment, corruption did not exist. What folly! I'm bent on art, photography, architecture. Unable to portray this, I was talking about the history and heritage. I was an undead. And I wanted to foreigners not to expose more of what the Stalinist system. "

Ah! this editorial director of La Presse, January 14, 2011, hours before the surprise departure of the dictator, and a few hours after his famous "I have all inclusive!" So yesterday, could be read, Tunisia has written a new page of history and Ben Ali has made a new triumphal entry into history, scoring in golden letters the hallmarks of a society model who always face the toughest test ... "The text will remain in history and the director in question was dismissed. A committee of journalists took the reins of the newspaper to make it stick to the reality of the country before the Prime Minister appoints new CEO, Ben Romdhane Hmida, a professional view of his colleagues. And everything has changed, of course. It is even spectacular. Ton, titles, subjects, hierarchies. The depravity of the clan Ben Ali Trabelsi are widely discussed. Yet it floats. Few investigations, real portraits, subjects completed, interviews stripping.


"We lost reflexes, Olfa said. We are looking for landmarks, other than censorship. Why not free? But how far? Some panic. We grope. We look for the compass. Twenty-three years of dictatorship gave sequelae. But the energy I saw on January 14 can provide miracles. We have to. System Ben Ali is not disintegrated. "

It is the fear of Bensedrine, running, running, running from one meeting to another, his radio Kalima was created on the Internet, which is prohibited under Ben Ali, waiting feverishly being assigned a frequency, National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, she also founded. A figure, a real one. Opponent always fallen dictator. And great symbol of strength and integrity. Of course the gray revolution. Of course she's finds it both exciting and promising, essential. Of course also the debates on the air now, even if not always well done, it seems beneficial. But it can not divest itself of a persistent anxiety. And she has received, there was little, death threats.

One night, after she returned from a television show in which she criticized the political police, a man - envoy - was brought home: "What are you looking for? Anarchy? You that you want to scar you did one more mouth to show on TV or do you want us to kill you, what would be simpler? " She feels listened to, knows monitored. Strange. Networks Constitutional Democratic Rally, the former ruling party, now dissolved, being replenished, "she assures. "Like a hydra whose head was cut." Outside the government. And even against his orders. They aim to sabotage the elections and still feel very powerful.

"The media has a crucial role to play, now is the hinge! But the landscape is exactly the same as under Ben Ali. Ah, the rhetoric has changed, of course. But the propagandists are always there before and did not found in one night, a core of Democrats debates ...? TV trays are overflowing. But if not conceived, directed, prioritized, they pour into populism and caricature, to the delight of the enemies of democracy ". His radio to it, Kalima, broadcasts on the Internet, and Bensedrine not include a frequency he was not yet been issued. Wait for new legislation? A legal procedure with specifications? "But there is urgency," she said. How can we consider the forthcoming elections without independent new media? "

Located on Avenue U.S., home of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (1 200 members to about 1,700 professionals known) gives the impression of a beehive. Its leaders have long near the Tunisian League of Human Rights or the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, returned to power their team had confiscated a "coup" in 2009. But Bghouri, the president, does not hide his concern over the new landscape. Reversals jacket, outbidding revolutionary, insults, defamation, violation of all rules of balance and ethics ... "What a disaster," he said. Everyone is looking to exploit the press, which competes processes to proclaim his allegiance to the revolution. When do we understand that this is not the problem? What we do not need releases 'revolutionary'? We want it free, independent, tolerant and critical. Serious and informed. It must become a space credible, at the height of the democratic transition. " That's why he wants to help. European Union, the Organization of the UN, various NGOs, lawyers from other countries ... "We need training! Resume fundamentals in the art, incorporate the rules of an election campaign, art democratic debate ... "


The house is a vast and rustles debates, roundtables and committees multiple press law, ethics, protection of sources, conscience clause. It's fiery and feverish. In the meeting room on the ground floor, young journalists, just grouped together, express their impatience to be heard, to shake up the rules, to shake the establishment. Ensure that the business finds its credentials, and it becomes impossible to go back. Because they are worried, too. And destitute. Everything happened so fast and no one left. Of course, Facebook! Of course, blogging! What valve! What a breath! "Westerners have created these tools and it was the Arabs who makes the best use!", A young woman smiling Radio Mosaique FM. But they hope other newspapers, other radio stations, other broadcasters. ... And training! "An education in journalism democratic." Not a meeting where the application emerges. Because they want to be strong, legitimate reproach. "We can not turn all the bosses and former collaborators," said one blogger. So we must confront them. The fight from within. And against their cunning, their elastic spines, their willingness to put a lid on their compromise recently, competence and determination of hell. "

They dream of training in foreign media. Course of law, economics, political science. In workshops led by fellow "of countries in press freedom." A young reporter said reading poetry to practice journalism she would like literature. "There was writing dry, rough, with disgust. It's over. The new Tunisia requires that we give ourselves fully. What is there to put his soul." We must act quickly, they insist. The Constituent Assembly elections are scheduled for 24 July. More than fifty parties will be thrown into the arena. Hope - and risk - are immense. Tunisian media, so long lying and failing to play their role at last.

TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 8 : Sihem Bensedrine  founder of CNLT ( Conseil National Pour les Libertes en Tunisie )  at Hotel El Mechtel on 8 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 6 : Detail from inside the offices of ,
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Unemployed journalists at La Maison du SNJT ( Syndicate of National Journalists of Tunisia ) on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Unemployed journalists at La Maison du SNJT ( Syndicate of National Journalists of Tunisia ) on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 10 : Blogger, Leena Ben Mhenni, author of A Tunisia Girl at the Belvedere Hotel on 10 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Camera man for Iranian PRESS TY outside of La Maison du SNJT ( Syndicate of National Journalists of Tunisia ) on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 6 : Detail from inside the offices of ,
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Hadili Nibras of Radio Kalima and Soudani Mohamed at CNLT ( Conseil National Pour les Libertes en Tunisie ) 4 rue Abou Dhabi on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Camera man stands next to freedom of speach declaration at La Maison du SNJT ( Syndicate of National Journalists of Tunisia ) on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 7 : Abdel Raouf Bali, journalist for Achourouk and president of ANJJ ( Association National des Jeunes Journalistes ) speaks at La Maison du SNJT ( Syndicate of National Journalists of Tunisia ) on 7 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 9 : Backstage at Nightly News at Nessma TV on 9 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 8 : Employees at Cactus TV Productions stage a in studio demonstration on  8 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 6 : Detail from inside the offices of ,
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 9 : Mokhtar Rasaa, President and General Manager of the Tunisian National Television Station in his office on 9 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 8 : Technician at a pre-recorded
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 9 : Nelbil Karoui, president of Nessma Group and Nessma Television at his residence  on 9 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 9 : Backstage at Nightly News at Nessma TV on 9 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 8 : Sihem Bensedrine  founder of CNLT ( Conseil National Pour les Libertes en Tunisie )  at a pre-recorded
TUNIS, TUNISIA - APRIL 9 : Inside the newspaper La Presse on 9 April, 2011 in Tunis, Tunisia.