The paradox of fear in modern Tunisia

Today’s papers contain a plethora of stories about the state of security in Tunisia. The official Tunisian news agency, TAP, reports that 77 delinquents were arrested in Ariana (a Tunis suburb). Tunisia Live (via Shems FM) reports that 560 individuals have been arrested in southern Tunisia this week. This follows reports of thousands who have been arrested around the country

Officials are responding to citizen concerns. The interior ministry is trying to show that it has the security situation under control and that action is being taken. According to a survey released today by Sigma, security (along with the economy) remains the number one concern of Tunisians.

General lawlessness has been a key feature of post-Ben Ali Tunisia. From speeding to violent crime, Tunisians almost universally feel the situation is worse.  Under Ben Ali, violent crime existed but was not reported, now it’s an everyday feature in the media.

The government, eager to show it is doing something, puts out press releases with Ben Ali-style numbers. (“We didn’t just arrest a few criminals, we arrested hundreds!”)

The irony is that reports the very media which is now finally free to report the news is the number one reason some people talk about the “good old days” under Ben Ali.

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