He is satisfied with his voice… Why Qais Saeed refuses to talk to the press?

Tunisian President Kais Saied owes a lot to the press and the media. For years after the 2011 revolution until his ascension to the presidency, the man was a regular guest on television channels and on the pages of newspapers, as a professor of constitutional law and an interpreter of the legal and constitutional problems that Tunisia faced during the transition period experienced. period, especially during the drafting period of the 2014 constitution and during successive government crises. .

As testified by dozens of journalists, Saeed was flexible in his dealings with them and tirelessly responded to their invitations to attend. His strange and remarkable way of speaking the Arabic language without exchanging any colloquial words, and without characteristic facial expressions or a smile, was a source of admiration for some on the grounds that “the stranger it is, the more successful it is .” The sharpness of his rhetoric towards the ruling elite and his clear prejudices towards the generally ruled also attracted large segments of media followers.

However, this intimate relationship with the press and the media dried up after Saeed became president, since the end of 2019, since the president has only given an orphan television interview with the local media since that date, which happened a hundred days after his ascension, on the government channel.

On the other hand, dozens of requests submitted by Tunisian journalists to conduct interviews with the president are sleeping in the offices of the Presidency of the Republic, without a response. The official page of the presidency on Facebook remains the only window through which Saeed looks out to the people to speak in short video clips that gather him with the ministers, sitting behind his desk in the form of a lecture, overshadowing a public talk through strict paternalism and excessive severity, which reproduces itself with the same linguistic structures and the same discourse.

On some occasions, journalists try to break this isolation by imposing themselves on the president during his night tours in Habib Bourguiba Street or in some areas of the country, when they break the security cordon and ask him their questions, and therefore he is forced to answer without saying anything new.

Qais Saeed does not differ from most populist leaders in rejecting the media and the press as one of the mediating bodies between the government and the population, such as parties, trade unions and civil society, thus turning into an obstacle or barrier between the populist leader and his people, which must be broken or neutralized, so that communication can be direct Without any barriers to purify the discourse, criticize it or ask any questions about it, as the press usually does.

The populist discourse, if it passes through the press and media channels, will necessarily confront counter-discourses, describing the press as a platform for the presentation of ideas and against them, and this contradiction will certainly not be in favor of the logically fragile populist discourse .

Therefore, populist leaders prefer a one-way conversation, from them directly to the people without comment, question or realization, and they find social media the perfect tool for this, as US President Donald Trump did during his reign when he used Twitter as the main platform for discourse .

“Populist leaders prefer a one-way talk, from them directly to the people without comment, question or realization, and they find in social media the ideal tool for that.”

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Investigative Europe platform “Disinformation Machine”, which was carried out in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland, and whose summaries were published in various media, right-wing populists dominate political discourse in Europe on social media platforms , far beyond what they represent Popular in terms of the number of voters, as other political parties seem to be lagging behind, social networks offer a particularly suitable platform for populist discourse.

But while he disappears from the media as an interviewer, Kais Saied dramatically succeeds in manipulating the media from all directions by controlling the news cycle. So far, the mainstream media can’t seem to stop talking about the president, and his presence in the media seems overwhelming as he runs everything in the country without a partner. Journalists find themselves obliged to report what he says on his official page as it is the only source of information, without having the right to ask him about the details of what he says, even if the content of the speech contains ambiguities things or misleading overshadows the truth.

In fact, the Tunisian president’s media isolation reached an unprecedented degree a few months ago when the presidency organized a press conference between Saeed and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without the presence of journalists. Many obstacles were also imposed on the ministers so that they would not appear in the media by a decision of Prime Minister Najla Boden, who did not appear in any press interview, while the position of the official spokesperson of the presidency is still vacant for this. day, and there is no spokesperson for the presidency except the president himself.

Somewhere in his 1984 novel, George Orwell points out that: “The further away a society is from the truth, the more it hates those who tell it.” This dissonance between society and the facts is at the heart of the dissonance between populist rhetoric and journalism.

Said believes that the media, which carries a variety of opinions and analyzes based on relative facts, can quickly become an obstacle to its direct relationship with the people, and is therefore always subject to condemnation, as at the beginning of this year happened, when he launched an attack on the local media describing it as fake And he accused her of falsifying facts, paying attention to trivial issues and not paying attention to core issues, because she increased the number of participants questioned what he provided about the electronic consultation he offered, and it was described as a failure according to the number of participants compared to the total number of the electoral body. The media’s objective characterization angered the president so much that he angrily said in a video clip published by the Tunisian presidency: “Every day they put electronic consultations in parentheses on newspaper columns. Lies lie like a news broadcast.”

Somewhere in his 1984 novel, George Orwell points out that: “The further a society is from the truth, the more it hates those who tell it.” This dissonance between society and the facts is at the heart of the dissonance between populist discourse and journalism.

The populists offer a simple, charming, uncomplicated discourse, close to the stories of salvation, and of that simplicity and that magic easily finds its way into people’s hearts, because people are looking for a quick and magical solution to all their problems, and they are looking for a heroic savior who is able to meet their demands without complications.

On the other hand, journalism is based on complexity by trying to decipher the discourse, with facts, analysis, penetration in depth and verification of information, and this can undermine the populist discourse. But this complexity is completely absent in social media, which presents the populist leader’s speech raw without examination or scrutiny of the recipient.

“The populists offer a simple, charming, uncomplicated discourse, close to the stories of salvation, and it is that simplicity and that magic that easily finds its way into people’s hearts, because people are looking for a quick and magical solution to all their problems. .”

Populist leaders’ hatred of the press extends to their supporters, who are very active on social media, as well as supporters of the Tunisian president, who lead highly organized campaigns against the mainstream media as part of the “corrupt elite” and “transcendent to the people”. .

Perhaps the Tunisian president’s escape from the media, especially from conducting live television interviews, with all the discussion, debate and commentary about the alternative facts he presents instead of objective facts, is in depth an escape from any criticism or confront question about his speech.

Returning to the issue of “alternative facts”, we can cite dozens of examples of this, the most famous of which seems to be the one that took place weeks after the coup of July 25, 2021, when the president’s supporters took to the streets in supportive demonstrations , so that the president appeared that evening in a video recording published by the presidency on the page On Facebook, he confidently said: “It was a historic day when about 1.8 million people took to the streets , cheering.” Addressing the prime minister, he added: “The people have spoken… We will not disappoint the Tunisians.” This is despite the fact that the protest he was referring to was barely attended by around 8,000 people, and was broadcast live on more than one media channel apart from social media, and with the acknowledgment of the official news agency itself. Although the Prime Minister was well aware that this number was not only exaggerated but imaginary, she answered the President with a smile and said: “God willing,” without adding anything, because the objective truth about the its relativity is nothing compared to the opinion of the President, and the behavior of the Prime Minister Not abnormal, it is the normal behavior of supporters of populist leaders everywhere.

In another example of the transcendence of truth to what is beyond, Qais Saeed accuses suspicious parties he never names and talks about with the conscience of the absent, “the indifferent,” of “infiltrating satellites in space and databases,” noting that they are “stranded on Earth and will be stranded by them.” Ways in space,” while the minister of communications sits before him and shakes his head, acknowledging every word he says, even though he is an engineer in information technology, in a strange case of interweaving the conspiratorial interpretation of reality with the fabrication of alternative facts to produce a simplified discourse that is easily digestible and believable. It never finds its way into traditional media.

It is no longer, as before, a matter of betraying the truth, twisting it, circumventing it, or even retroactively reformulating it, as in the propaganda used by totalitarian and tyrannical regimes or even fascist tendencies, but it is simply to to completely ignore because it is complex Extremely stressful and exhausting.

* The article expresses the author’s point of view and not necessarily the opinion of Raseef22

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