By Monia Ghanmi in Tunis and Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia


Ramadan television dramas are drawing a large audience in Tunisia, a success that many attribute to the shows’ bold take on modern social ills.

The series “Naourat al Hawa” and “Maktoub” shed light on several social issues experienced by Tunisian society, including the exploitation of street children, trade in human organs, organized prostitution networks, torture in prisons, as well as the promotion and consumption of drugs and alcohol among young people.

For 50-year-old housewife Aicha Ben Sassia, the topics are taboo despite the fact they are at the heart of the Tunisian reality and affect different groups and social circles.

“We do not disagree with the directors of these productions,” she said. “All topics that are addressed are rampant in our society, especially with the increasing crime in the country. We remain hopeful that these series and what they reveal will help push to reduce these problems and address them.”

Her husband Ahmed Souri, a bric-a-brac dealer, said, “I think that the series this year expressed the hidden social reality of Tunisia or what Tunisia wants to hide.”

“We need such purposeful work to reveal our truths that we should not be ashamed to address in public. This leads us to think about how to find solutions to our issues,” he added.

For his part, Majdi Jaouadi, a 27-year-old-doctoral student, commented that what was portrayed in the Ramadan dramas was the essence of the truth.

“The scenes of corruption, moral decay and suffering that have been filmed in the slums and high-end places, are manifestations of present in Tunisian society,” he stated.

“I wish these issues would be taken seriously and that attention would be drawn to them before further tragedies are caused,” Jaouadi said.

Despite these dramas’ positive reception by the majority of Tunisians, some scenes aired by the series “Maktoub” from inside prisons, which depicted the living conditions of the detainees and ill-treatment by agents, were subjected to criticism by the prison’s union.

The series gave an inaccurate picture of what is happening in prison, according to Makrem Chahbani, the assistant secretary-general of the Union of Prisons and Reform. He said that the content had nothing to do with reality.

Moroccan Ramadan TV lambasted by viewers

Ramadan is also the high season for Moroccan television production. Although the public criticizes the mediocrity of the new programs aired by Moroccan channels every time, they are still excited to watch the home-made shows broadcast during the holy month.

“The artists who mess things up and present a mediocre series or soap to the public must revise their working methods,” remarked Hicham Salmi, a public sector worker. “Their careers are at stake. It’s a big disappointment for us. But we mustn’t generalize. The TV films that have been shown so far have been of good quality.”

However, Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi has given repeated assurances about the quality of national programs broadcast during the holy month. During his most recent speech before MPs on June 24th, he explained that the ministry was gradually introducing competition to encourage an improvement in quality.

When contacted by Magharebia, some Moroccans said they watched Arab channels and shunned local ones.

“Why should I keep on watching mediocre Moroccan programs when Arab television channels offer me a whole range of things? And then there are the football matches that are broadcast by international channels, which many people love,” said Karima Sikhi, an accountant.

Source: Magharebia.