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TUNISIA: First independent news channel latest milestone in uprising

February 8, 2011 |  6:35 am

The first "post-revolution" satellite channel based in Tunisia was launched Saturday just weeks after a popular uprising forced former President Zine el Abidine ben Ali to flee the country, the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi reported.

The new, privately owned station, "Sawt an-Naas" or "Voice of the People," represents a new victory for the protest movement. Many of its journalists are former Tunisian exiles who have only recently been allowed to return to their country, according to the station's cofounder, Mourad Sellami, who also pledged to maintain editorial independence and high professional standards.

"Our channel does not follow a specific political line," Sellami told Al Quds Al Arabi. "We are a channel that aspires to have an independent editorial line and remain open to any Tunisian opinion without any exclusion."

For now, the channel has begun transmitting the Tunisian national anthem as it gets its programming in line, but Sellami said he hopes to begin broadcasting soon. Fostering a local independent press will be vital to ensuring meaningful reform, with the coming elections still hanging in the balance and conflicting reports about the source of ongoing unrest.

The newspaper noted that prior to Ben Ali's departure and the sacking of large parts of his government, all television and radio stations based in Tunisia were either state-owned or private but toed the party line, most notably Nessma TV and Hannibal, which were owned by a relative of Ben Ali's wife.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

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