Since the president’s sweeping decisions announced on July 25, Ennahdha member Radwan Masmoudi has waged a media war against Kais Saied. A controversial figure, Masmoudi has long juggled between his activities in civil society and in politics. And this is not the first time that his statements have elicited so much controversy and raised questions about his connections both within and outside of Tunisia.
With opposition to political Islam as her hobbyhorse, the former RCD member and current president of the Free Destourian Party (PDL) Abir Moussi has become the figurehead of opposition to Ennahdha. This positioning on the political chessboard has resulted in a meteoric rise. But is she really opposed to the Islamists’ social vision? Is she really progressive?
Ennahda’s 10th Congress took place between May 20th and May 25th, bringing reforms which sparked conversations about where the party is headed next. Media coverage highlighted Ennahda’s separation of “mosque and state” as a step towards better governance in Tunisia. The portrayals of what this “separation” truly means varies in Western and Tunisian news coverage, with some reports being more skeptical than others.
Secularists defeated Islamists is the verdict most commonly reported in international news outlets; Victory and defeat are relative, Tunisian journalists estimate. The politicization of the secularist-Islamist conflict throughout the Ben Ali’s tenure and the increased occurrences of religious violence after the revolution reflect a true conflict that is by no means the defining feature of the country’s democratic transition nor the 2014 elections. The ISIE’s final tally last week represents «a surprising defeat for the Islamist Nahda party» only for those who do not read beyond the titles of foreign news reports that refrain from examining the intricacies of and history behind party politics over the past four years.
Even if it is for the lack of up-to-date and relevant data produced and diffused by Tunisian government institutions, that Tunisian media draws from foreign mainstream reports without questioning the validity of the data, analysis, or sources used–reporting through the grapevine, as it were–is a practice that diminishes rather than enhances the quality of dialogue on current issues. Noteworthy, for example, is the number of news agencies that have referenced the recent CNN International study and imprecisely or incorrectly attributed it to the Washington-based non-profit Pew Research Center.