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Media Landscape Facts: Tunisia » Legislation and Regulatory Bodies

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Legislation and Regulatory Bodies

Media Landscape Facts: 7th version, May 2012
Produced by African Communication and Media Progress www.media-progress.net (Ingeline Bonde)
In a time of fundamental change, these media landscape facts must obviously be updated frequently. We would be grateful for your feed-back, information, and corrections to our pioneering work. Please write: contact@media-progress.net

2.Regulatory Bodies
3.Regulation of journalist ethics

1. Legislation

New media bills

While media practice has changed considerably in Tunisia, media legislation remains largely unchanged. The outgoing interim government in November 2011 promulgated two important decrees that have not yet been passed by the newly elected parliament : décret-loi no. 115 relatif à la liberté de la presse,de l'impression et de l'édition as a Code de la Presse and décret-loi no 116 relatif à la liberté de la communication audiovisuelle et portant création d'une Haute Autorité Indépendante de la Communication Audiovisuelle (HAICA).
The proposed version of the new Code de la Presse provides substantial freedoms compared with the previous Code de la Presse issued by the old regime, but still allows the parliament to detail the code of conduct for the media. Several other transitional countries have instead chosen a self-regulatory non-statutory approach similar to that of many other non-francophone countries.
The proposed version of the decree on creation of an independent audiovisual commission (HAICA) reflects solid international standards for independent allocation of licenses for new broadcasters but contains no provisions concerning independent public service broadcasters. The members of the commission will be appointed by the President of the Republic, the President of the Assembly, the Judiciary, and the most representative organizations of journalists, audiovisual media companies and audiovisual media managers. This procedure allows for more political interference than found in some East European models for regulatory bodies.
Nevertheless, in the present Tunisian regulatory vacuum the adoption of the two decrees would constitute an important step forward. However, the present government states that it wants to amend the decrees before turning them into law but has not yet disclosed what kind of changes it will propose.
Useful analyses of the decrees 115 and 116 can be found on Reporters Sans Frontiers (www.fr.rsf.org/IMG/120227_code_de_la_tunisie.pdf) and on Internews http://www.internews.org/research-publications/new-tunisian-legislative-framework-focus-press-and-audiovisual-media).
A number of incidents involving media, editors and journalists indicate the importance of founding free media on a firm legislative ground. Once the new constitution with its provisions for media freedoms has been adopted, further refinements of the regulatory strategies and legislative framework for the media sector could take place.
A third important decrees promulgated but not yet passed is décret-loi sur l'accès aux documents administratifs (D-L n°41 du 26 mai 2011 modifié par le décret-loi n° 54 du 11 juin 2011). The first décret-loi of 26 May 2011 was claimed to be without substance and was modified by the décret-loi of 11 June 2011 following pressure from L'Instance nationale de réforme de l'information et de la communication (INRIC), the World Bank and the EU. It allows free access for all individuals regardless of their citizenship to have access to administrative documents. It makes it mandatory for public authorities to publish information about their activities proactively and makes access to documents free of charge.
However, Article 19 and Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens (SNJT) argue that these reforms are insufficient and that freedom of expression and the right to information remain challenged by laws interpreted by courts to suppress the expression of dissent. Instead, they advocate for introducing a clause in the new constitution currently being drafted stating that access to information should be granted unless:(a) disclosure would cause serious harm to a protected interest; and (b) this harm outweighs the public interest in accessing the information. (www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/2207/fr/tunisie:-nouveau-d%C3%A9cret-relatif-%C3%A0-l%E2%80%99acc%C3%A8s-aux-documents-administratifs-:-la-fin-de-la-culture-du-secret)

Current legislation

The state broadcaster Ètablissement de la Télévision Tunisienne is established in accordance with decree no. 2007-1868 of 23 July 2007. It is governed by an administrative board of 10 members and a president who are all appointed by a decree from the Ministry of Communication. Eight of the members represent ministries and two represent Tunisian radio and the Office National de télédiffusion. Chapter 4 of the law specifies that the Minister of Communication has financial control, supervises daily management, and approves programmes, appointments and promotions. The licence fee financing the public broadcasters is calculated on the household's consumption of gas and electricity (law 79-66 of 31 December 1979). Law no. 2007-33 makes public broadcasters responsible for the promotion of diversity and pluralism etc. Nevertheless, the audiovisual landscape as a whole has been characterised as a legislative and institutional void created intentionally by the former president and his family for their own purposes in a journalist conference in early April 2011. (http://www.webmanagercenter.com/management/article-104645-paysage-audiovisuel-tunisien-le-vide-pour-avoir-les-mains-libres).
The establishment of the Conseil supérieur de la communication (CSC) as a consultative body was based on décret no. 2964 of 8 September 2008, first connected with the President but later moved to the Prime Minister's Office. Its regulatory function of the media sector and its reports were largely kept secret. It was composed of 21 members. 6 of these represented the media profession, 5 the political parties of the Chambre des deputes, 4 civil society and 6 L'Etablissement de la Télévision Tunisienne and ATCE.
The "Office national de la Télédiffusion": decrét of April 25 1957, decrét of July 25 1975, décret 82-1363 of October 21 1982, décret 93-1606 of July 26 1993. The laws are 93-8 of February 1 1993 and one of May 7 1990. Other measures connected with this institution are décret 1226-2000 of June 5 2000 (concerning its staff) and décret 2000-1889 of August 24 2000, modified by décret 485 of February 18 2008
« Arrêtes » and media laws may also be accessed on www.intt.tn/site/fr/article.php?id_article=98

2. Regulatory bodies

L'Instance Nationale de Télécommunication
Mainly responsible for the telecommunications network and the allocation of frequencies. 
Address: Imm. Abou Sofiane, angle des rues 8000 et 8003. Montplaisir 1002 Tunis
Tel: + - +
Fax: +
E-mail: dir.coop@intt.tn

Agence nationale de fréquences
Manages the national plan for radio-electric frequencies in coordination with the competent agencies. It specifies technical demands to radio-electric equipments and ensures the protection of the use of radio-electric frequencies. Founded as a financially autonomous body on the basis of law 2001-1 dated January 15, 2001 promulgating the telecommunication code.
Adress: 12 Rue d'Angleterre 1030 Tunis
Tel: 71 325 164 - 71 359 373
Fax: 71 323 233
Website: www.anf.tn/fr/index.php
E-mail: com@anf.tn

Ministére du communication: closed in the aftermath of January 14th 2011.

Information and communication, Prime Ministry
Since January 14th 2011, media and communication are under the auspices of the prime minister. The prime minister nominated new directors and editors of public media in January and again in late April on grounds that were not transparent. Information and communication falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Ministry. The present "conseiller du chef du gouvernement chargé du dossier de l'information et de la communication" is Ridha Kazdaghli.

Agence tunisienne de communication extérieure
This agency was the centre for media surveillance and distributed propaganda to Tunisian and foreign media.
It was responsible for allocating the state advertising budgets between different media institutions and accrediting local and foreign journalists. (http://www.i-m-s.dk/publication/tunisias-media-landscape-june-2002).

Office national de la télédiffusion
The ONT is responsible for allocation and maintenance of the audiovisual networks. It controls the reception quality of the programmes and cooperates with relevant national institutions and international organisations. ONT claims that all frequencies for TV and radio transmissions are in use, making it impossible to allocate more frequencies. IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group, however, recommends that operators be allowed to choose their means of broadcasting and that ONT be subject to an audit.
Its website includes a list of broadcast hours for all Tunisian TV and radio broadcasters.
Instance nationale de réforme de l'information et de la communication (INRIC) recommended that ONT reduce the transmission fees for the new radios and changed a symbolic fee from community radios. ONT charges a fee of 2 mill. TD for a radio broadcaster covering the entire country, 200.000 dinars for coverage of Grand Tunis, and 57.000 dinars for regional broadcasters. However, ONT agreed to allow the new broadcasters to transmit without charges for the remaining months of 2011 and reduced the price with 20 % for 2012. (La Presse, 20 October 2011)
Following the decision by Radio 6 to stop broadcasting because of the high ONT fees, the journalist association SNJT protested against the monopoly policy of the ONT and the "prohibitive costs" for community radio. ONT retorted that as a technical body it does not have the mandate to exempt any radio stations from paying. (TAP, 19.10.2011)
However, ONT plans to have terminated the digital transfer by 2014.

Adresse : Cité Ennasim I - Borjel BP 399, 1080 Tunis CEDEX
Tel: (216) 71 801 177 Fax: (216) 71 781 927
Website: www.telediffusion.net.tn
Email: ont@telediffusion.net.tn

Agence Tunisienne d'Internet (ATI)
Prior to January 14th 2011, Tunisia had a detailed Internet legislation and censored the Internet, monitored e-mails and blocked political and human rights websites. After the transition government re-imposed censorship of pornographic sites, some militant activist sites and Facebook following public uprisings in May 2011, the CEO of ATI revealed at a press conference May 31st, that because internet usage had increased by 35 % after January 14th, the re-imposition of censorship would be more costly.
A group of experts estimate the cost of censorship to be app.72-79 million dinars for a five-year period. The highly controversial decision by the Ministry of Defense to re-impose censorship was challenged legally. The CEO of ATI acknowledges that the agency is legally obliged to censure but unable to do so because the equipment needs to be repaired after having been idle for more than a year and its capacity needs to be increased. Laws concerning internet surveillance remain in force despite the fact that ATI requires a judicial request for demands to ban websites by civil or military authorities.
According to the online media Tunisie Haut Debit (April 11, 2012), the government plans to restructure this agency as well as attach groups of internet experts to the ministries of the Interior, Justice, Defence and the Ministry of ITC to improve internet security and stop the dissemination of false information. The government argues that this type of surveillance will serve to protect the security of the country. It consequently differs fundamentally from the type of surveillance carried out before January 2011, which served to protect the regime.
Address: 13, Avenue Jughurta, Mutuelleville, 1002 Tunis - Tunisie
Tel: (+216) 71 846 100
Fax: (+216) 71 846 600
Website: www.ati.tn
E-mail: webadmin@ati.tn

3. Regulation of journalist ethics

In Tunisia as well as in other transitional democracies no clear procedures have been established, mandates are often unclear, and representatives and experts are often replaced because of political changes. Consequently, new councils and commissions will inevitably be criticised by other actors in the media sector.

Instance nationale de réforme de l'information et de la communication (INRIC)
This body replaced the former Conséil supérieure de la communication (décret-loi 25.2.2001) in March 2011
and has conducted a consultative process with the media and journalist community as the basis for its recommendations concerning media regulation and regulatory bodies in Tunisia. The objective of INRIC was to institute reforms and regulation that secure independence, professional journalism and the respect for freedom of expression and pluralism by drawing on the experience of other transitional countries. The members of INRIC were media professionals. Since INRIC was not allocated a budget, it was supported by various organisations such as IFEX, Article 19, UNESCO etc.INRIC has delivered a number of reports containing observations, evaluations, conclusions, and recommendations ensuring media independence, improvement of journalistic standards and public trust in the media.
It also allocated temporary broadcast licenses to new private TV and radio stations that fulfilled specific requirements. The licenses were allocated according to criteria inspired by those in democratic countries: prevent media conglomerates, prevent politicians owning media enterprises, prevent foreign contributions to the enterprise capital, and favour economically sustainable projects.
In the spring of 2011, INRIC worked on the same objective of media reform as the Commission sectorielle de l'information et de la communication audiovisuelle mentioned below but after some time the two bodies agreed to cooperate on three major reform bills: access to information, a new Code de la presse, and a new regulatory body for audiovisual media. Since the interim parliamentary group and the commission sectorielle de l'information et de la communication audiovisuelle ceased to exist in October 2011 after the elections, INRIC has been a prominent advocate calling for these bills to be passed. INRIC has also repeatedly criticised harassment of journalists and media.
The Syndicat tunisien des directeurs des médias (STDM) proposed in September 2012 the establishment of a new commission dedicated to the elaboration of the fundamental principles for the future of the media, and the protection and support of media during the period of transition consisting of INRIC, la sous-commission de l'information relevant de la Haute instance pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution, the journalists' union (SNJT), the STDM, and representatives for technical personnel. STDM criticise that they have not involved in the process of developing new legislation and oppose the creation of an independent audio-visual regulatory body which would "confine the enterprises and wreck the goals of the revolution".
INRIC's final report will contain observations, conclusions and recommendations
which will establish the conditions for new, independent, media regulatory bodies.
Adresse: 51, Avenue Jugurtha, Mutuelleville
Tel: 71 842588
Fax: 71844263
Website: www.inric.tn/fr/
E-mail: inrictunisie@yahoo.fr

La Commission sectorielle de l'information et de la communication audiovisuelle
Sub-committee of l'Instance supérieure pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution, de la réforme politique et de la transition démocratique whose primary task was to draft a Code de la presse, de l'imprimerie et de l‘edition based on a revision of existing media regulation. For this reason the first draft of the Code de la Presse was deemed excessively repressive by INRIC, syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens (SNJT) etc. The Commission sectorielle then chose to cooperate with INRIC, SNJT, l'Union des éditeurs tunisiens, l'Association tunisienne des directeurs de journaux and syndicat tunisien des directeurs des entreprises de presse, revised the document, and represented a more palatable version in June 2011. In this version journalists only risk being tried in three cases: the incitation to discrimination or violence, the dissemination of paedophilic pornography, and the incitation to homicide, looting, rape and attacks.
During 2011, both versions of the Code de la Presse were consistently criticised by groups of journalists who advocate self-regulation through its newly established Observatoire de la déontologie du journalisme and prefer integrating freedom of expression in the constitution.
La Commission sectorielle de l'information et de la communication audiovisuelle also developed the décret-loi no 116 "relatif à la liberté de la communication audiovisuelle et portant création d'une Haute Autorité Indépendante de la Communication Audiovisuelle (HAICA) comme garante du pluralisme d'espression des idées et opinions" and décret-loi sur l'accès aux documents administratifs (D-L n°41 du 26 mai 2011 modifié par le décret-loi n° 54 du 11 juin 2011).

This commission closed along with the Instance supérieure pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution on 13 October, 2011, ten days before the general elections.

Observatoire de la déontologie du journalisme
Created 26.1.2011 following a general assembly of the union of journalists to counter the tendency by certain official parties to suppress and intervene in reporting after the revolution. The intention is to publish monthly and annual reports « de répertorier les insuffisances et de dévoiler les écarts dans l'exercice de la profession de journaliste", conformément au code de déontologie et aux chartes internationales et en coordination avec les parties actives, notamment le bureau exécutif du SNJT.
Ce travail d'observation doit commencer le 10 avril 2011, en assurant le suivi de la production journalistique des médias nationaux publics et privés. Le rapport de l'observatoire sera élaboré conformément aux normes scientifiques. Une grille d'analyse a été élaborée pour l'analyse des différents médias (presse écrite, audiovisuelle et presse électronique).
La réception des plaintes et des remarques de l'opinion publique concernant les messages diffusés par les médias nationaux ainsi que l'organisation de rencontres et de sessions de formation, au profit des journalistes et communicateurs sont également parmi les prérogatives de l'observatoire.» (www.tunisienumerique.com, 9. April, 2011)
Adresse: SNJT, 14, avenue des Etats-Unis d'Amérique, Tunis Belvédère 1002.E-mail: Observatoiresnjt@mail.com

Useful sources of information:

Article 19 Tunisia: Protecting Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information in the New Constitution, March 2012

Article 19 Tunisia: Background paper on Internet regulation, April, 2012 http://www.article19.org/data/files/medialibrary/3014/12-04-03-ANAL-ICT-tunisia.pdf

Article 19: Tunisie: Nouveau décret relatif à l'accès aux documents administratifs : la fin de la culture du secret www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/2207/fr/tunisie:-nouveau-d%C3%A9cret-relatif-%C3%A0-l%E2%80%99acc%C3%A8s-aux-documents-administratifs-:-la-fin-de-la-culture-du-secret

IFEX-TMG Mission Report: The Scars of Oppression Run Deep: Assessing the Critical Requirements for Freedom of Expression in Tunisia's Democratic Transition April 2011 http://www.ifex.org/tunisia/2011/06/21/scarsofoppressionrundeepifextmg_eng.pdf

Internews (Joan Barata Mir) The New Tunisian Legislative Framework:A Focus on Press and Audiovisual Media February 2012 http://www.internews.org/sites/default/files/resources/Internews_TunisiaMediaLaw_2012-02.pdf

Institut Panos, Paris: La mission de service public audiovisuel dans la région Maghreb/Machek, April 2012


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