Najjar in Tunis — A recent Tunisian TV programme on terrorism raised reservations among viewers, security officials and even families of slain soldiers who saw the show as justifying violence.
The February 9th episode of “For He Who Dares” on privately-owned Ettounsiya TV drew scorn after it gave airtime to terrorist sympathisers, including the father of alleged Chokri Belaid assassin Kamel Gadhgadhi.
On February 11th, the High Independent Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA) summoned the host of the programme, the legal representatives of the production company and those of the TV station.
“Justifying terrorism in one way or another is not acceptable,” HAICA president Nouri Lajmi told Tunisia Live.
The HAICA president presented the breaches recorded in the episode, including “failure to respect the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, especially chapter 6 thereof about the right to life”.
This was in addition to the “failure to respect plurality of ideas and opinions”, a HAICA statement said.
Programme host Samir El Wafi and producer Heyem Hajj Ajimi pledged not to rebroadcast or publish the aforementioned episode.
Majdouline Cherni, sister of murdered National Guardsman Sokrat Cherni, was shocked over what was aired.
“Today, I speak in the name of all families of martyrs who were killed by the terrorists,” she said. “This is because what has happened is dangerous and is treason to the blood of those who died for Tunisia.”
She demanded “the public prosecution to take action against some media outlets that are trying to whitewash terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) reminded all reporters that “there is no neutrality with terrorism,” and that “the terrorists are enemies of Tunisia, freedom and democracy.”
Following the uproar that was stirred by the February 9th episode, El Wafi responded on his Facebook page, saying he was “fully responsible” for what he said personally, adding that it “contained no sympathy with the terrorists or any doubts over security officials”.
“If there was a single word that contained any hint about that, I would be ready to apologise and shoulder the responsibility in full. All my comments are available and I should be held to account for them only. They were balanced, clear, neutral and objective,” he wrote.
The show host added that his guests were responsible for their own statements, saying that they were “free to express their own opinions and show their positions regardless of their trends”.
“When my guest Khamis Mejri glorified his idol Osama Bin Laden, I strongly confronted and objected to him and our dialogue became tense. However, I don’t bear responsibility for what he said, nor for what my other guests said or did; they are completely free in this,” El Wafi said.
“I also hosted the father of Kamel Gadhgadhi, the killer of Chokri Belaid,” he added.
“I asked him questions about his relations with his son, how he turned from a student in America to a terrorist in Jebel Chaambi, how he communicated with him, and when he noticed a change in his character. Was I required to deal with the poor father as a terrorist and a criminal and to hold him to account for his son’s crimes?” he asked.
But the show host said he didn’t deny there were “some mistakes”. “However, such mistakes are not as big as some tried to suggest; they even accused me of trying to whitewash terrorism and this turned into a campaign to settle scores,” he concluded.
The Popular Movement, meanwhile, expressed its rejection of “turning media outlets into forums to justify and whitewash terrorism and its crimes, taking advantage of the tragic situation of terrorists’ families to make Tunisians sympathise with them”.
A statement issued by the Popular Movement blasted the coverage as an “exposed attempt to confuse the Tunisian people, and the security forces behind them, in the decisive battles against takfirist groups”.