Tunisia’s revolution has not kept all of its promises to liberalise the media – and in particular, the country’s radio stations. Confronted with institutional obstacles, certain independent radio stations have decided to circumvent them.
In the luxurious surroundings of Tunis’ Majestic hotel, five people listen attentively to Pete Tridish around a table covered with electronic parts, circuit boards and soldering irons. A former cyber activist, this native of Philadelphia teaches them how to assemble a pirate radio transmitter, used to “chop” the FM band and appropriate a radio frequency. The students participating in this workshop are members of the Worldwide Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). There are Tunisians, but also some Moroccans like Mohamed, who works for the web portal e-joussour, and Egyptians such as Fatemah, who launched a local and citizens’ media project last September.
The scene is somewhat surprising in post-Ben Ali Tunisia, where hopes were high for the liberalisation of a media landscape that had long been muzzled. And yet, it is clear that the revolution has not fully succeeded in freeing the airwaves. Before January 14, the market was shared between the publicly owned Radio Tunis and four private stations viewed favourably by the regime: Shems FM, Mosaique FM, Express FM and Jawhara FM.
Five months after the fall of the dictator, the National Forum for Information and Communication Reform (INRIC), established by the new authorities, decided in favour of the authorisation of twelve private radio stations. Many of them, however, have still not received the licenses granting them a frequency. Among the stations in waiting are Sawt El Manajem (“the Voice of Mines”) and Radio 6.
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