Tunis/Tunisia — Tunisia fell 21 places to 94th in the 20th World Press Freedom Index. The index is published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to assess the state of journalism in 180 countries across the globe.
"Freedom of the press and of information is an undeniable achievement of the Tunisian revolution," reads the document. "Since the 2011 revolution that forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali into exile, Tunisia has been experiencing a democratic transition with some surprising twists and turns, but a power grab by President Kais Saied in July 2021 has led to fears of a setback for press freedom," RSF further said.
In addition to being guaranteed by the Constitution of 2014, these rights are legally upheld by decree-laws promulgated in 2011. However, that package of measures is incomplete, and ensures only minimum legal protection to journalists and media.
The Tunisian legal system persists in ruling on the basis of laws left over from the Ben Ali era, rather than relying on decree-laws more favourable to press and information freedom.
An economic crisis threatens the independence of many news operations, given that they are dominated by political and economic interests, jeopardising the new surge of pluralism.
"The media depend on private advertisers, some of which have media holdings and may have political ties,".the organisation said. This environment threatens editorial independence.
RSF said, in this context, advertising revenue also depends on audience size. Statistics on the matter are loosely calculated and strongly questioned.
The economic model for the print press, based on subscriptions, advertising and street sales, is weakening, given a drop-off in individual sales and a shrinking advertising market
Political parties regularly turn to social networks to launch disinformation campaigns, to discredit the press, and instill suspicion and confusion among voters. Verbal attacks on the media by political leaders have increased in recent years.
Intimidation of journalists has become normalised. Reporters also confront violence from street demonstrators, RSF said. A new line was crossed on January 14, 2022 when a dozen journalists were brutalised when they covered a protest.