Tunisian media links Brahmi killing to regional woes

A demonstrator holds up a poster with an image of slain opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi Tunisians went out on the streets to protest against the killing of Mohamed Brahmi

Tunisian press and television stations, both state-owned and private, have been focusing on what the assassination of the outspoken left-wing opposition member of parliament, Mohamed Brahmi, on 25 July means for the country.

Parallels were drawn with the situation in neighbouring countries, with commentators citing the deterioration of the security situation under Egypt's ousted Islamist-led government and the threat posed by instability and militia rule in Libya.

Others spoke of conspiracies aimed against the Arab Spring and speculated about the reasons behind the timing of the killing.

On Tunisian state TV and privately-owned Nessma TV, most pundits appearing on studio discussion programmes devoted to the political impact of the assassination blamed the government for failing to improve the security situation in Tunisia.

They cited the widespread availability of arms, the fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in the Chaambi mountains in Tunisia's southwest, the impact of instability in Libya on Tunisia, and the threat posed by jihadists as well as armed groups linked with the ruling Islamist Ennahda party.

'Betrayal of the republic'

The front page of the Tunisian private daily Esshafa on 26 July featured an image of Mohamed Brahmi and a report of reaction from various political leaders.

The article's headline, "Betrayal of the republic on holiday devoted to it", alluded to the 56th anniversary of the deposition of Tunisia's last king, which coincided with the day of Brahmi's assassination.

In an editorial headlined "A crime repeated", the paper noted that Brahmi's killing has "triggered a large wave of tension in the political and social scene".

"The cowardly assassination occurred in a charged political environment that has been influenced by the situation in Egypt, which has inflamed popular feeling in Tunisia and led to growing calls for the removal of the Tunisian government. It also coincides with a fragile security situation and a lack of transparency about the government's anti-terror operations in the Chaambi mountains."

The paper pointed out that the assassination happened immediately after revelations by a Tunisian government adviser that those responsible for the killing in February of another prominent left-wing opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, would be captured within days.

Esshafa said this could mean the killers were "sending a clear message of ridicule" to the political class and security establishment.

It also said that the assassination came only days after both a weapons cache was found only 3 km from where Brahmi lived and information leaked suggesting that groups of gunmen had infiltrated from Libya with the intention of defending the Ennahda government if anti-Islamist forces move to oust it.

"Polarisation has reached dangerous levels," the paper said, citing the rallies held to express solidarity with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as well as the comments by leading Ennahda figure Sahbi Atigue threatening anyone who moves against Tunisia's government with death.

The privately-owned daily Al-Jaridah said security personnel "were urged to exercise restraint" towards the "situation in Tunisia's streets, which has reached boiling point".

'We are all Mohamed Brahmi'

State-owned French-language daily La Presse published a report on 26 July headlined "New wave of terror, descent into hell" in which it called Brahmi's assassination "a heinous crime".

"The violent death of a political figure is for all of us an event that means political affiliations are now of secondary importance to the need to belong to one national family.

"As many are saying, we are all Mohamed Brahmi!" the daily added, in a reference to the Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters' slogan "We are all Khalid Said" to commemorate a young man killed in police custody.

The paper went on to say that Brahmi's assassination was part of a "Machiavellian plan" to inflame public anger against the Ennahda government and derail Tunisia's democratic transition.

The Tunisian news website Mosaique FM broadcast a speech on its audio stream channel by a leading official of the Tunisian General Labour Union, in which he said there had been attacks on his organisation's offices in protest at the assassination.

"If we are violently attacked, our response will be very strong and violent in the true sense of the word," he said.

The Shems FM news website broadcast an interview on 26 July with the leader of the liberal Republican Party, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, who said that members of Ennahda "were not aware of the negative repercussions of the assassinations on the country's situation".

He added that Prime Minister Ali Laaraiedh "is in a bubble, in total refusal to see the sad reality, and he will be made responsible for what is happening in Tunisia".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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