Tunisia shuts down television and radio stations critical of the president

TUNIS- Tunisian independent media regulator HAICA said on Wednesday it had shut down a television station, Nesma TV, owned by Tunisian Heart party leader Nabil Karoui, and a religious radio station, saying both were licensed.

The stations criticized President Kais Saied, who took over executive power in July in a move his opponents are calling a coup. HAICA also closed Zaytouna earlier this month, which was also unlicensed and criticized Saied.

Nesma TV station and religious radio station Koran Kareem have been operating for years without a license, annoying media watchdogs who view them as illicit tools of political influence.

Since Saied took power in July, some critics see any move against media opposing him an attempt to undermine press freedoms and rights in Tunisia, which has been a democracy since the 2011 revolution.

Saied has since enjoyed wide support in Tunisia, where years of poor governance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been compounded by a deadly increase in COVID-19 cases.

HAICA fined Nesma for shows that it said exploited the poor and promoted the political agenda of the channel’s owner, businessman Nabil Karoui, a former presidential candidate and opponent of the president.

HAICA said both are closed for unlicensed broadcast.

Nesma and Quran Kareem officials were not immediately available for comment.

“Nesma belongs to a leader of the Coeur de Tunisie party, which was reflected in its content, which violated the principles of freedom of audiovisual communication,” said the regulator.

He added: “The Koran radio was promoting hate speech to incite violence and hatred.”

The Quran station is owned by Said Jaziri, a member of parliament, who was suspended by the president in July.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Bernadette Baum) ((tarek.amara@thomsonreuters.com;))

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