French channel's investigation on 'Saied dictatorship' sparks uproar in Tunisia

French channel's investigation on 'Saied dictatorship' sparks uproar in Tunisia
The investigation had already ruffled the feathers of Tunisian officials, prompting Tunisia's prime minister to discuss the matter with his French counterpart.
3 min read
05 March, 2024
The investigation tackled the economic crisis, the political situation, and Saied's antisemitism and racism towards Sub-Saharan migrants. [Getty]

A French channel has aired an investigation on the 'dictatorship' of Kais Saied, sparking controversy in Tunisia and risking diplomatic ties between Paris and Tunis.

On Sunday at midnight, hundreds of Tunisians tuned in to watch "Exclusive investigation: Between Poverty and Dictatorship, The Grand Step Backwards," a one-hour investigation on the shrinking freedoms within the North African country, produced by the private French channel, M6.

The investigation had already ruffled Tunisian officials' feathers before its official broadcast.

On 29 February, Tunisia's Prime Minister, Ahmed Hachani, praised his country's friendship with its former coloniser but lamented the yet-to-be-aired M6 investigation, claiming that "undoubtedly malevolent enemies of Tunisia" were behind it.

"It's an unfriendly act by our French friends," he added during a press conference with his French counterpart, Gabriel Attal, who did not react to Hachani's statements.

M6, the producer of the investigation, is the flagship channel of the private M6 Group media empire, which owns several TV channels, magazines, publications, movie production companies, and media-related firms. Therefore, the state has no control over its content.

The Tunisian PM's discomfort has drawn more attention to the controversial investigation, making it the most-watched video on the program, 'Enquete Exclusive', garnering 60,000 views on its YouTube channel in one day.

"The investigation did not bring anything new. We say more than that ten times here on Tunisian Radio," said Ghazi Moalla, a Radio host at Tunisian Radio IFM. "However, the Prime Minister speaking about it has added it to the propaganda around the program," he added, arguing that the term "dictatorship" was an exaggeration of the situation in the country. 

The investigation tackled the economic crisis, the political situation, and Saied's antisemitism and racism towards Sub-Saharan migrants.

Several agree that the investigation did not bring any new information. However, many have decried the program's 'nostalgia for the Ben Ali era,' evoking a 'conspiracy theory' to destabilise the situation in the country.

"This program was pushed by people who were affected by 25 June (Saied's assuming all exclusive powers), those who don't want good things for the country," Najib Al-Drizi, a Pro-Saied political analyst, said on Monday in an interview with Tunisian Radio IFM.

Even Saied's opponents did not like M6's production, citing the channel's biased coverage of the Palestinian cause and Israel's war on Gaza.

"We do not need foreign media to understand our misery, our suffering, and the deterioration of the situation at all levels. We live in a stage of populist tyranny," wrote Hichem Al-Ajbouni, a leading figure of the opposition socialist party of the Democratic Current (Attayar).

"After October 7th, I no longer watch French programs because of the blind Zionist bias of the French media. (...) they have fallen morally and revealed their hypocrisy and disgusting racism," he added.