In a changed Tunisia, dismay over an unchanged media
Many Tunisians who supported the revolution are dismayed by the continued presence of print and TV reporters who never challenged the status quo under former President Ben Ali.
On television and in the pages of Realites, an independent French-language newsmagazine that he edits, Zyed Krichen has emerged as one of the most vocal champions of the revolution that ousted Tunisia's longtime dictator and ignited the historic protests in the Middle East.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
On blogs and Facebook pages, however, Mr. Krichen is under fire for what he didn't say. For years, some argue, Krichen remained silent while his magazine published uncritical, sometimes fawning stories about the dictatorship — including a particularly upbeat profile of a widely reviled presidential nephew in the early days of the uprising.
Four months after the ouster of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, Tunisia's revolution remains far from complete, a fact that's embodied in an awkward feature of the new Tunisia: Nearly all of the editors and media personalities who worked under the old regime remain in their posts.
And to the young and increasingly impatient supporters of the Tunisian revolution, that is a situation that shows how little has actual changed here since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia Jan. 14.
"No one of a different voice is running any media outlet since the revolution," said Riadh Ferjani, a professor of communication at the University of Tunis-Manouba. "All the public and private media are being led by people who were OK with the Ben Ali regime. Even if it's not the same individuals, they all belong to the same system."
Krichen, a journalist for 30 years, said he had to make compromises to ensure the survival of the magazine. Under Ben Ali's 23-year dictatorship, websites and books critical of the reginme were banned; self-censorship was a matter of survival for journalists and broadcasters.
"I chose to work in this country, and therefore I accepted to work for a magazine that ran apologist stories in favor of the regime," the editor said in an interview at his magazine's offices, inside a whitewashed colonial-style building in Tunis.
Defending Ben Ali regime
In December, days after an impoverished young Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire after an altercation with a police officer in the southern town of Sidi Bouzid, Krichen wrote a two-page column in which he expressed sorrow for the incident and criticized state media for failing to cover it.
But he absolved Ben Ali's regime of blame in the episode — which mushroomed into the nationwide protests that forced Ben Ali's resignation.
"President Ben Ali has repeatedly shown, since his accession to the presidency, his deep concern for all of Tunisia's children, especially those in poverty or misfortune," Krichen wrote in the Dec. 30, 2010, editions.