New head of Tunisian state news agency quits after protests

by Reuters
Monday, 19 April 2021 15:20 GMT

(adds strike cancelled and gvrt comments)

TUNIS, April 19 (Reuters) - The new head of Tunisia's state news agency resigned on Monday after its journalists demonstrated against his appointment in protest at what they called an attempt to undermine editorial independence.

After Kamel Ben Younes' resignation, the journalists' syndicate said it would cancel its first-ever strike planned for April 22 and end a boycott of news about the government.

Dozens of protesting journalists had gathered in front of Tunis Afrique Presse's (TAP) headquarters on April 13 to try to stop Ben Younes from entering, but police later forced a way in and beat journalists.

"I resigned to avoid being involved in political tensions or the classic management of a state media organization that needs a comprehensive reform plan that include administrators and journalists", Ben Younes said in a letter sent to Reuters.

Protesting journalists say Ben Younes is too close to the moderate Islamist Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament. They accuse him of backing moves to control the press before the 2011 revolution brought democracy.

He has denied both charges, saying he is a political independent, and points to his past work as a journalist with several outlets, including the BBC.

Reacting to the syndicate's cancellation of its strike plans, Mofdi Mssedi, the adviser to Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, said: "The page has turned. Now it is time to launch a national dialogue to reform the public media."

Since the police storming of TAP headquarters last week, TAP has decided to boycott news about the government.

Before the revolution, TAP was an arm of state propaganda based entirely on official sources. But it has become a rare Arab news agency with editorial independence, often covering stories that criticise the government. (Reporting By Tarek Amara, Editing by William Maclean)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.