Middle East

Tunisia shuts 'unlicensed' media outlets

TV channel and radio station accused of serving as 'platforms for jihad' as country mourns deaths of 15 soldiers.

Last updated: 20 Jul 2014 15:55
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Wednesday's ambush in Chaambi region was the worst attack in the Tunisian army's history [AFP]

Tunisia has closed a satellite television channel and a radio station for promoting "jihad", a few days after armed fighters killed 15 soldiers, according to the government statement.

The decision came after fighters on Wednesday attacked two army posts in the remote Mount Chaambi region near the Algerian border, killing 15 soldiers in the worst attack in the Tunisian army's history.

The statement from the office of Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said on Sunday that the authorities had decided to shut down Nour FM radio and Al-Insen satellite channel.

The government said "the immediate closure of the unlicensed" media outlets came after they "turned into platforms for takfiris and jihad".

Takfiris are Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy.

Many radio and television stations operate in Tunisia without permission.

The government warned in the statement that it would take "all necessary measures to deal with ... incitement of violence, terrorism and takfir on social networks".

It stressed that "security and military institutions constitute a red line", saying that "any denigrating person, group, party or institution will face prosecution".

After the revolution that toppled the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, many mosques have fallen into the hands of conservative Salafist groups, becoming hotbeds for incitement of violence, according to the authorities.

Celebrations over deaths

The government is concerned Salafist groups have been spreading a violent message at these mosques and it has been slowly taking back control of them.

Sunday's statement said the government has also decided to close mosques "working outside the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, as well as mosques, where celebrations of the death of our soldiers have been confirmed".

More than 60 men linked to armed groups have been arrested since Wednesday's attacks on the army checkpoints, a statement from the prime minister's office said earlier.

Tunisia has adopted a new constitution, and a transitional government has taken over until elections this year to overcome a crisis between a leading Islamist party and its secular rivals.

But the country is also one of the main sources of fighters travelling from North Africa to join armed groups in Iraq and Syria.

Fighters from one group were blamed for killing two secular opposition leaders last year and touching off a political crisis that eventually forced the governing moderate Islamist party to make way for a caretaker administration.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group's North Africa branch, has claimed attacks in Tunisia in the past, but another armed group, Ansar al-Sharia is also active.


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