Tunisians unhappy with Saied's 'tone-deaf' statements on water shortages

Tunisians unhappy with Saied's 'tone-deaf' statements on water shortages
Kais Saied responded to reports on the social outrage over water shortages around the country by saying, "On the contrary, there is often joy on the part of the citizens amid water outages because it is in their interest."
3 min read
24 March, 2022
Four Tunisian cities witnessed water outage for a week due to construction. [Getty]

Tunisians are often happy about the water outage because they know it is in their interest, said Tunisia's president Kais Saied, in a controversial statement that provoked sarcasm and criticism against the populist leader's "tone-deafness" on social media.

During a visit to the Bin Deha railway project on the outskirts of the capital Tunis on Wednesday, Kais Saied responded to reports spotlighting social outrage over water shortages across the country by saying, "On the contrary, there is often joy on the part of the citizens amid the water shortages because it is in their interest. The citizens are understanding." 

Many Tunisian users quickly took to social media platforms to react to Saeid's statements by questioning "the seriousness" of the populist leader.

The Tunisian Company for the Exploitation and Distribution of Water announced last week that several regions in Ben Arous, Zaghouan, Nabeul, and Tunis will experience disturbances to their access to drinking water for six days starting from March 21.

The company said the outage is due to the ongoing construction of the express railway network project.

Saied said authorities have provided citizens, particularly in Ben Arous, with tanks of mineral water to ease their struggle.

"The decision was taken because the higher interest requires it, and the citizens understand that, contrary to what has been promoted by the media.”

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The snub by Saied against the national media's credibility inflamed Tunisian journalists' anger against the Tunisian leader.

"They like to blame the media for everything. Actually, Tunisian media played the main role in explaining to the people the reasons behind the water outage. (...) saying people are happy for the water outage is an exaggeration,"said Naji Zaiteri today during his popular radio program on Jawhara FM.

On Wednesday, Tunisia's journalists' union accused authorities of seeking to "silence the media" after the arrest of Khalifa Guesmi, a radio correspondent, for refusing to reveal his sources.

The union has announced plans to go on strike on April 2 to protest at the president's "attempts to control public media."

This year, Tunisia recorded an unprecedented increase in attacks against journalists since the toppling of the former regime of Ben Ali. Forty-two journalists have been targeted in the country since the start of 2022.

Last year, Saied imposed one-man rule since suspending parliament and seizing most extraordinary powers in June,  in a move his foes have called a coup.