Tunisian presidency fires head of national television channel

The Tunisian presidency fired the head of the national television channel on Wednesday after two guests briefly denied access to the studios to participate in a program.

Wataniya CEO’s resignation comes after President Kais Saied suspended parliament and fired the prime minister on Sunday in what opponents have called a coup.

On Monday, Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera said police had forced its office in Tunis to close, raising fears that civil liberties and freedom of the press were at risk in the fledgling democracy.

The resignation of Wataniya president Lassaad Dahech came hours after a journalist union representative and an activist were barred from the channel’s offices on Wednesday.

Amira Mohamed, vice president of the SNJT union, said she was stopped at the entrance by a security guard who was waiting for permission from the channel’s management to let her in.

Human rights activist Bassem Trifi, who was also denied entry, said he was told it was not Wataniya’s decision.

“The Wataniya CEO told me he had been instructed by a military official not to allow guests to enter the television studios,” he said.

But the defense ministry and the president’s office said they had not issued such instructions.

A few hours later, a statement from the president’s office said that Saied had issued a decree to release Dahech from his responsibilities and instruct Awatef Dali to temporarily take over the role.

Saied has said his suspension from parliament and subsequent actions are justified under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an “imminent threat”.

He has insisted on protecting civil liberties.

On Wednesday, he also issued decrees dismissing a long list of senior government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor.


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