Media barred from session as Tunisian parliament reconvenes after 20 months
Tunis, Mar 13 (EFE).- Tunisia’s parliament reconvened Monday for the first time since president Kais Saied suspended it 20 months ago, but neither local nor foreign reporters were allowed to cover the event.
Security forces told some 50 journalists, who had waited outside the building for hours, that they had been told that the parliamentary session was closed to the media, with only public television and the state-run news agency allowed entry.
Amira Mohamed, the vice president of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), told Efe that censoring the press “threatens the country’s image.”
“What is happening today is a shame. Journalists do not accept this situation and insist on carrying out their work,” said Mohamed.
The developments are the latest authoritarian turn in the country since Saied was democratically elected in 2019.
In January 2021, protests in Tunisia began amid an economic crisis, allegations of police brutality and frustration at the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On July 25, 2021, Saied froze parliament, lifting MPs’ immunity from prosecution, and sacked the prime minister, in a surprise move that has been described as a “self-coup” but which he said complied with Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution.
A year later, a controversial new constitution granting the former law professor further powers was passed in a referendum marred by a low turnout.
The controversial new constitution stripped the assembly of its powers, leaving it unable to approve a government or table censure motions against it or the president.
Parliamentary elections late last year that saw only 11% turnout were boycotted by the majority of political parties, which were excluded by a new electoral law released by the president.
After Saied dissolved municipal councils last week, the opposition is preparing for the presidential elections scheduled for next year, despite the fact that many of its leaders have been imprisoned for “plotting against state security.” EFE