Tunisian TV: Still Protecting Ben Ali’s Reputation
Published Monday, July 30, 2012
Viewers of the state-run Tunisian TV channel al-Wataniya 1 were surprised to find that scenes had been deleted from the eighth episode of the series Grapes of Wrath last Friday.
The widely-viewed TV drama exposes corruption involving families that were close to the echelons of power under ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Viewers may not have been certain that scenes had been deleted were it not for the confirmation issued by the Syndicate of Assistant Directors and TV Photography.
They issued a statement the day before yesterday condemning the “silent” return of censorship after the revolution which was supposed to have ended all censorship on the freedom of Tunisians and their creativity.
The syndicate deemed the deletion of scenes as the first step in an attack on creative freedom and issued “calls for the mobilization and solidarity of all artists to defend creative freedom which is now under threat.”
The deleting of scenes from the series written by Abdelkader Belhaj Nasr and directed by Naim Barhoumi is being seen as a dangerous precedent, an act which never before took place, even under the reign of the ousted president. This has scared a lot of Tunisians who fear the return of censorship and restriction of freedom.
The Committee of Rights and Freedoms in the National Constituent Assembly witnessed a huge disagreement last Thursday, entailing an exchange of insults between members of al-Nahda bloc, the Democratic bloc and independents.
The disagreement erupted after al-Nahda movement suggested a formula for freedom in the Tunisian constitution. The Islamist movement believes that “freedom of thought is guaranteed and freedom of expression, media, creativity and art is guaranteed... provided it does not injure public order and good morals!”
A number of members of the assembly objected to this formula, including poet Mourad Amdouni and filmmaker Salma Baccar. Opponents of the suggested formula said it “restricted freedom and confiscated creativity under the pretext of 'good morals' and 'public order',” two concepts that could be wielded as weapons against any artist.
A few days ago, president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights Abdel Sattar Ben Moussa warned that the current Tunisian constitution will restrict freedom more than the 1959 constitution “if al-Nahda movement does not back away from its approach of religious preaching and abandon the majoritarian logic which it has been using to pass any project it wants, even those that undermine freedom.”
The tampering with the 8th episode of the Grapes of Wrath is being seen as a new chapter in the struggle between Tunisia’s ruling troika and those sectors of the public that are opposed to the restriction of freedom.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.