Tunis lines up for a piece of the media pie
In Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, there is a new breed of a journalist. Daring, nosier, and a little more liberated than what was there before the revolution that ousted Ben Ali from power.
On newsstands. newspapers and magazines of all sorts on display tell it all. Radio and television stations with more exploratory stories beyond state propaganda are also lining up for a share of the audience attention.
While some are looking retrospectively at the high levels of corruption in the era of Zinedine Ben Ali, others are scrutinising foreign accounts held by former government officials; how they got their wealth and such. Those in power have not been spared either.
Theatres, literary writers and even singers are more free to express their views and the result is a country in the middle of an interesting conversation. And it's both ways.
For the three decades when Ben Ali presided over national matters in Tunisia, media freedoms were highly curtailed. Journalists would receive deadly threats for stories they were pursuing; official propaganda was splashed on most papers. This has eased in the new reality.
Only recently, the Tunisian Interior ministry appealed for factual, responsible journalism in the country. That was a clear departure from the old ways of handling the media by the former regime. And there are yields already.
With better treatment of the media plus more tolerance to criticism, Tunisia's annual ranking in media freedom in the Arab world has improved greatly. Lebanon — until now — was traditionally the best place for journalists to work in the region but Tunis has taken over now.
Several media establishments are also lining up to get a piece of the media pie in the north African country. So far, more than seventy media companies have applied for business licences in the country.
New newspapers are finding space too. Al-Fajr (the Sunrise) is already engaging its readers every day; a weekly newspaper of the Islamist party Annahdha which had been banned for twenty years has also resurrected.
There is also the bilingual web journal The Audacity and two other Arabic speaking newspapers The International and The Message that were launched only few weeks ago. But its is not all roses and roses.
As some blossom, others are withering. Two private TV channels (Nessma TV and Hannibal TV), seen to have been the former regime's mouthpieces, are going through a lean patch.
Media outlets under the Tunisian agency of external communication, ATCE, are also struggling hard..
This was the propaganda arm of Ben Ali's regime that worked together with the ministry of interior.
The official newspapers of the Ben Ali party are not smiling either. The two dailies, one in French (Le Renouveau) the other in Arabic, (Al Hurrya) had to close down their business after the fleeing of Ben Ali.