On July, 16 the Tunisian National Radio issued a communiqué [Ar] denying recent “censorship” accusations. The public institution was recently subject to harsh criticism when Nadia Haddaoui Mabkhout, a journalist working for RTCI (Radio Tunis Chaîne Internationale) was prohibited from stepping inside the radio’s headquarters to host her radio show “Café Noir” (Black coffee).
The ban was issued few days after RTCI director Donia Chaouch stormed the studio to confront Mabkhout’ s guest, the satirical singer Bendir Man, and accused him of lying. During that episode (aired on July, 2) Bendir Man mocked the radio management’s decision to change the names of two RTCI shows “Black Coffee”, and “Hot Chocolate” during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Mabkhout had previously told Index on Censorship that during a meeting RTCI director had made the decision to change the name of the two shows so that “listeners’ feelings would not be offended” during the month of Ramadan. She also accused the management of “censoring” the controversial episode by choosing not to publish it online as a podcast.
In its communiqué, the radio described the decision to suspend Nadia Mabkhout from work as a “disciplinary procedure” against the journalist who had “committed serious professional mistakes” namely “disrespecting working time and duration”, and “using the microphone to insult her colleagues”.
“The Tunisian Radio broadcasts with absolute freedom. There are no taboos, and no figures above criticism. Only responsibility, commitment to the code of ethics, and professional requirements and standards regulate such freedom”, added the radio in the communiqué.
On the other hand, Mabkhout denied the lack of professionalism accusations and asked the radio’s management to provide her with “proofs” on any professional mistakes she committed. She also denied insulting her colleagues live. “It was Bendir Man [who used the microphone to criticize RTCI]! I did not say anything”, she added.
Mabkhout is seeking to obtain a copy of Bendir Man’s registered episode to prove that she has not committed any mistakes, and has even vowed to take her case to court if necessary. “The National Syndicate for Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) obtained a copy of the podcast, and confirmed that I did not commit any professional mistakes”, she said.
I contacted Monji Khadhraoui, the syndicate’s General Secretary to inquire about the podcast. “This is not a censorship problem”, said Khadhroui. “It is just about professional disagreements between the radio’s director and the journalist”, he added.