Just a few days ago, the Tunisian national TV station (TTN), that was quick to shed its TV7 moniker after the revolution in Tunisia, and who overnight wanted people to believe they would become a space for free speech, aired a report on ex-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, highlighting all the bad things he did, the corruption, the treason and the list goes on; to put it simply they kicked the crap out of the guy, which he more than deserves of course.
Videos of the report quickly went online and were being shared around on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and all; and some people actually seemed impressed and thought that TTN was doing a good job.
On my side, I was actually disappointed, and don’t see anything that suggests the TV station has changed one bit. It’s still a mouthpiece, just saying and doing what they’re told to say and do, with no real reporting and no true voice.
It’s very easy to kick the crap out of someone like Ben Ali and portray him as the devil, now that he’s gone and all, so it’s not really a sign of freedom of speech or anything. But when you prepare and air a report like that, what’s very important is that you actually be precise about the information that you’re throwing around, fact-check it, and make sure it’s correct. Watching the report, I didn’t get that impression at all; they were getting a bunch of people to just throw out accusations and information, without specifying details, without providing precise numbers (they seemed more like they were made up on the fly), and just sticking any and every imaginable bad deed to the guy; and what made it even worse is that it was all done and narrated in a very propaganda-like cheap style.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Ben Ali, and I’m sure he was even worse than what we all heard and know, but my concern in this post is more about TTN and the Tunisian media in general.
Tunisian media has to move up to the next level and play a bigger role in unearthing and providing correct information to people, allowing a space for people to speak freely and share their opinions and facts, and to be right in the center of the national debate going on about the future of the country.
I would have liked to see the same report but with the people throwing these accusations being grilled for precise details and providing them; I would like to see a similar report done some day for our first president Habib Bourguiba, whose praise some people are suddenly re-singing these days; but even more important are reports now profiling members of the current government as well as the opposition leaders and parties, telling their history, what they stand for, and what they were doing while the Tunisian people were suffering under Ben Ali’s rule.
Tunisians don’t need to see anyone being accused, demonized or framed; we just want the media to do their job investigating stories and facts, and then just reporting them to us without any bias or agenda so we can make our own opinions and decisions.
I’m not sure most of the people currently employed by Tunisian TV stations, newspapers and magazines; who have done nothing but provide a very sub-standard level of “reporting” for years; are up to the challenge, and truly believe Tunisian media needs new blood that can live up to our expectations as Tunisians both at home and abroad.