Tunisia: Specifications for Licensing and Content Regulation of Private TV Stations

In March 2014, ARTICLE 19 analysed the Specifications on Private TV Station Standards for General Terms and Conditions for Licensing, Establishment and Utilisation (the specifications) adopted by the Tunisian broadcast regulator, the High Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA). The specifications on Private TV stations have been prepared along with the specifications relating to private radio stations and community TV and radio stations.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes a number of positive features in the specifications on private TV stations. These include, in particular, the setting of clear licensing conditions and criteria, the regulation of the right of reply, the regulation of broadcasting content aiming at protection of children and the inclusion of advertisement restrictions to protect the interests of viewers.

However, from the perspective of international human rights standards, the major problem of the regulation is the lack of safeguards for the right to freedom of expression. The specifications do not recognise that licensing and content regulation affect freedom of expression; they also fail to ensure that all restrictions pursue legitimate aims and are necessary and proportionate to the aim as required by Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The licensing process is not set out, including the time limits within which decisions must be made. Moreover, HAICA is not obliged to provide written motives of its decisions and consider the promotion of media pluralism and freedom of expression when deciding on licencing applications.