Monday, January 24, 2011

Andrew Hammond in Tunisia

Andrew Hammond, the seasoned and Arabic speaking correspondent of Reuters, sent me this from Tunisia (I cite with his permission):  "I've been in Tunisia for last week and interesting developments in media. State TV swiftly became pro-uprising when Ben Ali left and most state media outlets remains led by a control network that was led by Abdelwahhab Abdallah, Ben Ali's Goebbels. Abdallah has disappeared and is being sought by police and his home in Marsa, affluent Tunis suburb, has been vandalised. But these heads are now crouching in their offices and the staff have taken over the editorial line. in case of Assabah newspaper it is now without an owner, since Sakher al-Materi, Ben Ali's son in law, fled. with state TV, although they have discussion shows with rights activists and politicians who never were seen on TV before, there is a general attempt one senses, through montages and description of "people's revolution of freedom and dignity", to say hey, the revolution happened, thanks, now let's all go home. ie it's a conservative aim to "ride the wave" - like governments did whe n there were massive protests in favour of Intifada in 2000 - in order to lead the popular ferment to a safe shore where many of the second tier of old regime like Ghanouchi and others survive, and, potentially, it ends up being no more than a palace coup.   generally, it's so exciting to see people absolutely aware of their rights in a way that the regime in its arrogance and its cheap moves like blocking internet and controlling media thought would not happen. they got a shock." And added:  "also, after i sent that to you: they stopped Hannibal channel and put out official statement accusing owner of high treason, such strange language reminiscent of former regime. and then a few hours later it was back on air and opposition member of cabinet Najib Chabbi came on channel to say he had intervened personally with interim PM Ghannouchi and was sorry. seems a bit of a struggle going on within ruling circles. word is too: An-Nahda's ppl inc Rashid al-Ghanouchi are in Qatar at al Jazeera's invite and meeting Emir who v much involved. they plan a Ghanouchi return within a week and there is talk of pulling old Destour opponents of Bourguiba like Ahmed Mestiri to head a transitional council to draft new constitution before elections (not after, like the current plan), while parliament is officially suspended and this interim govt is either sacked or headed by Mestiri."