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Since the wave of social movements began in January, the circulation of images presumably depicting terrorists and weapons intercepted by Tunisian authorities have been fuel for mainstream media’s slander campaigns against social movements and sensationalized news headlines about terrorism. In the meantime, the purple* glow of nostalgia for the past regime burns strong on the sets of prime time television shows where interlocutors continue a misguided debate around security versus human rights.

Rumors of violent protests, machete-bearing terrorists, and a cache full of weapons

Beginning on January 21, fabricated photographs representing protests turned violent and terrorists brandishing machetes were posted online by security forces, a tactic (which some associate with the protests in January 2011) to justify police brutality. Secretary General for the National Guard Sami Knaoui appeared twice on El Hiwar Ettounsi regarding two such images, first to share them with his audience and subsequently, upon the revelation of their disingenuousness, to offer an explanation of their diffusion.

This month, customs’ tracking and interception on February 9 of a “container filled with weapons” that had arrived from Italy to the port of Rades refueled unfounded, fear-provoking theories regarding potential terrorist operations. “The container held weapons and not toys” and “its importer is a Belgian citizen who pretends to want to invest in Tunisia,” reports confirmed on February 10 following a press conference with the Directorate General of Customs in Tunis. The Belgian investor was arrested and the case transferred to the anti-terrorism division of the court of Nabeul.