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Tunisia: Radio show host banned after station boss storms studio to confront outspoken guest
Tunisian radio journalist Nadia Heddaoui Mabkhout was denied access to the headquarters of RTCI (Radio Tunis Chaîne Internationale), suspended from work and had her radio show cancelled last Friday.
Mabkhout was on her way to host her show Café Noir, recently renamed L’invité du Journal, which is aired on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 to 9am. She was accompanied by her guest, Neziha Rejiba (alias Om Zied), a well-known Tunisian activist and writer.
A receptionist told her that she was prohibited from stepping inside the RTCI building, telling her it “was an order from the CEO of the National Tunisian Radio [Mohamed Meddeb]”.
Index contacted Nadia Mabkhout to inquire about the reasons behind this ban. “I do not know,” she answered.
There is speculation that the ban is a reaction to an episode that aired on 2 July, in which Mabkhout hosted Tunisian satirical singer Bendir Man. During it, Bendir Man mocked RTCI’s decision to change the name of the radio show from Café Noir to L’invité du Journal during the fasting Muslim month of Ramadan. Later on during the show, station director Donia Chaouch entered the studio and intervened live on air, accusing the guest of lying.
Mabkhout told Index that during a meeting the RTCI’s director had made the decision to change the name of show so that “listeners’ feelings would not be offended” during the month of Ramadan.
Mabkhout described her boss’s live interference as “an abuse of power”.
“It was the most difficult moment of my life,” she added.
During the same show Bendir Man also mocked current Tunisian policy makers and their decisions. “It’s as if they were smoking joints,” he said satirically.
Unlike the other episodes of Café Noir, this particular episode was not published online as a podcast. “He insulted the President of the Republic and the members of the government. I could not tolerate the fact that this took place with the complicity of the host who just laughed”, Chaouch told Kapitalis.com.
Mabkhout has vowed to take her case to court. “It was shocking (…) he [the CEO] does not have the right to prohibit me,” she said.