Tunisia police to investigate two top journalists, radio station says

FILE PHOTO: Tunisia police to investigate two top journalists, radio station says

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's most popular independent radio station on Thursday said two of its top broadcasters, critics of President Kais Saied, have been summoned by police for questioning, amid fears of an escalating government campaign against the media.

Radio Mosaique said its broadcasters Haythem El Mekki and Elyess Gharbi were going to be questioned by police on Friday in an investigation linked to journalistic content.

Police and Interior Ministry spokespeople were not immediately available to comment on the report.

El Mekki, who presents a daily show on Radio Mosaique criticising Saied's policies, this week raised concerns about the country's methods of recruiting police after a National Guard member killed two visitors and three policemen in a bloody attack on a Jewish synagogue this month.

The government has cracked down on prominent opposition leaders and critics this year, including arresting the head of Radio Mosaique Nourredine Boutar, in moves that have angered Western countries and human rights organizations.

Freedom of speech and media were key gains for Tunisians after the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the Arab Spring protests.

But activists and journalists say freedom of speech faces a serious threat under Saied's rule.

Dozens of journalists and activists protested on Thursday against restrictions of freedoms and trials targeting journalists and bloggers.

"These are dark times. Freedom of speech is increasingly hit. About 20 journalists and bloggers are being pursued because of posts or positions against authorities," journalists' union chief Mahdi Jlassi told Reuters.

Saied shut down parliament in 2021 and seized all powers in moves that his opponents call a coup.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Sonali Paul)