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Journalists boycott Tunisian government media review

By AFP

TUNIS (AFP) - A special review of the Tunisian media was boycotted Friday by journalists and others in an illustration of the ongoing mistrust between the nation's post-revolutionary leaders and the press.

The Islamist government had called for a two-day series of meetings to address the fraught relationship between state media and Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party that won elections in October after the ouster last year of long-serving dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The state television network Wataniya is regularly accused of denigrating the work of the government and even of plotting to overthrow it. But many in the media suspect Ennahda of wanting to keep them in check.

A post-revolution reform group boycotted the consultations after the government declined to delay its review until the publication of the panel's report into the crisis

"The government's unilateral decision to organise this review without prior consultation shows a lack of understanding of our efforts," the reform panel said in a statement.

The group's president Kamel Labidi has regularly denounced "attacks against press freedoms" in recent months and has presented a copy of the report to President Moncef Marzouki.

The report includes recommendations that would allow for "a free, honest and pluralist press", Labidi said, noting it would "remedy the catastrophic effects and considerable damage suffered by the media under Ben Ali".

The justice ministry denied the government sought to control the media or use them as a propaganda tool.

"We want an impartial media that talks about the good as well as the bad," said Justice Minister Nourredine Bhiri at the start of the review.

On Wednesday, the government asked demonstrators to end an eight-week sit-in in front of the state television centre.

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