Parsley rescue television channel from bankruptcy

Tunisian Television channel Alhiwar rescued by parsely

By Iqbal Tamimi

This article has nothing to do with salads or gardening. Parsley has a new role as a saviour of freedom of expression and an official sponsor that rescued a television station from bankruptcy.

{jcomments on}The weird relationship between parsley and freedom of expression was born from a crazy idea, when a Tunisian television station suffering severe financial hardships brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

Tunisian Television channel Alhiwar, which means ‘dialogue’ founded by Taher Ben Hussein, was threatened with closure lately, following orders by Alnahda movement, the political party that runs the country. Alnahdah deprived the channel from revenues by banning offering it commercials. The owner was forced to address the Tunisian people requesting their help. He suggested that every person can donate one Tunisian dinar, almost half a dollar, to keep the channel running as a platform that defends freedom of speech.

Many supporters of Alnahdah party ridiculed his attempt by leaving sarcastic comments on social networks and on-line forums, advising him to sell parsley instead. Bin Hussein did not think it was a bad idea, though it was an attempt to discourage him. 

Parsley was the star of debates about politics and media earlier. The Minister of Higher education in the current government, Moncef Ben Salem, mentioned parsley in his election campaign two years ago, when he told the Tunisians that he used to sell parsley to provide a living for his family, even though he was a doctorate graduate, because of the suppression he and many other academics suffered from the Ben Ali regime.

The parsley saga did not end here. The son of the Minister, managed few months later to launch a new broadcasting project. It was named al-Zaytuna. It was claimed that he managed to launch it from the revenues of selling parsley.

This was not a joke or an exaggeration. Taher Ben Hussein who established Al-Hiwar television channel never believed that the parsley campaign he called for last Thursday would meet the success it has received. The campaign managed to reap almost seventy thousand dollars, due to the popular campaign promoted by social media and online networking. 

All Tunisians, from different walks of life, showed unprecedented support to keep the television channel running. Public figures, politicians, literary personalities and artists gathered in front of the television channel to buy a bundle of parsley at a price of 20 dinars (12 dollars), but some were sold for more than two thousand and five hundred euros, in a country where the price of a bundle of parsley does not exceed half a dollar. It was the first time ever a bundle of parsley was paid for by cheques. 

This public support of a local television station was described as the best manifestation of solidarity in civil society aiming at standing against those who aim to silence the voices of opponents. The parsley became a symbol of steadfastness in Tunisia exactly as different forms of dance, including adaptations of the Hrlem Shake that swept the country, performed by young people who sparked the revolution, and led the fight against the Ben Ali regime.

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