Tunisian journalist faces sack for Ennahdha critcism

Popular Tunisian journalist Haythem El Mekki, is under enormous pressure to resign from national television after been accused of bias. Mekki has been suspended from his position at Tunisian TV station El Watanya I, where he co-hosts a programme that looks at Tunisian news, as the station’s management decide whether to sack him for failing to demonstrate journalistic neutrality.

Free speech advocates believe that Haythem’s anti-Islamist views are the real reason for his suspension.

Mekki is an outspoken critic of islamism, and the interim government presided over by the Islamist party Ennahdhain particular. He is outspoken on his Facebook page, and personal blog.

Index on Censorship contacted Haythem Mekki for more information on the real reasons behind his sacking.

Index: Has your sacking from National TV been confirmed?
It is not official yet. The national TV administration told me to go home and wait for their final decision.

Index: Did they tell you why ?
They claim that I’m affiliated with a specific political party, but I have no clue which party they are talking about! This is a pretext. They are sacking me because I’m telling the truth, and I’m revealing the real practices of the government in a successful TV show, which has the ability to influence the public opinion.

Index: The station said that they are considering sacking you because you are not ”unbiased” on your personal blog, and your Facebook page. What do you say about this?
It is my personal life! Have they investigated the online political views of other journalists? Of course they have not. Long before this, Islamists launched a defamatory campaign against me; they accused me of mocking the Koran, and threatened me with death. They also protested outside the TV headquarters calling for media reforms. But, instead of asking for cleansing the media sector from loyalists to Ben Ali (former President ousted on January, 14, 2011) they were holding banners against me, and against my co-presenter Elyes Gharbi ! These campaigns and protests are organised by  Ennahdha supporters. [Ennahdha is the main Islamist party in Tunisia, which won 40 per cent of votes in the 2011, elections]

Index: How do you see censorship and freedom of press in Tunisia these days?
The government is exercising “state terrorism’” against journalists. Defamation campaign, protests against journalists, and threats. (…) Recently, the government appointed heads and editors of state owned media, some of them loyalists to former President. And it was me who they begin with to cleanse the media sector!