Outlets including Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya published false stories about the leader and founder of the Ennahda party.
Saudi and Emirati-controlled media outlets have launched a series of attacks against the leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi.
Outlets including Sky News Arabia, and Al Arabiya, as well as the Egyptian Youm7 newspaper, spread inaccurate stories about Ghannouchi’s personal wealth.
Observers say the effort is aimed at undermining the Ennahda party, which forms the largest political bloc in Tunisia’s national assembly with 52 out of 217 seats.
Another possible explanation could be the failure of the Emirati adventure in Libya, where Abu Dhabi’s favoured warlord, Khalifa Haftar, has suffered a string of devastating military defeats that have put his plans to conquer the capital on hiatus.
Ghannouchi has backed the UN-recognised and legitimate government of Libya, the Government of National Accord, which is based in Tripoli. He also sent his congratulations to its leaders after their recent military successes, backed by Turkey.
The Emirati outlets claimed Ghannouchi’s personal wealth amounted to over $8 billion, a figure which if it had been true, would amount to 20 percent of Tunisia’s GDP.
How it is possible to hide such an extravagant amount was not a major concern for the reporters working at the Emirati and Saudi outlets.
"The policy of moral assassination of a character is a well-known and circulating policy, but it becomes more dangerous when countries adopt it with their institutions, devices and media, so that the voice of distortion, lying and stabbing becomes more widespread," Egyptian journalist Osama Gaweesh told Anadolu Agency.
Tunisia has become one of the Arab world’s few democratic success stories, fending off foreign interference to host a functioning parliamentary democracy. Ennahda has fully participated in this system under the guidance of Ghannouchi.
The UAE has worked with its partners to undermine the democratic movements that formed during the Arab uprisings of 2011 with mixed success. In Egypt, it succeeded in ensuring a coup led by Abdel Fattah el Sisi succeeded, while in Libya and Yemen it has struggled to find strong enough proxies to further its ambitions.
Its relationship with Tunisia is particularly testy. In 2017, Abu Dhabi banned Tunisian women from entering the country, leading to a diplomatic spat, in which Tunis demanded an apology.