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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

One week ago today, the dictatorship in Tunisia ended when President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country with his wife and family. Under his 23-year rule, the Tunisian press was heavily censored. But with Ben Ali's departure, that has changed overnight.

Eleanor Beardsley has the story from Tunis.

(Soundbite of protesting)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Last Friday, as tens of thousands of people protested in the street of downtown Tunis demanding that their president leave, the country's national television played Islamic chants while showing verses of the Quran.

(Soundbite of TV broadcast)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Chanting in foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: That surprised no one, says 22-year-old student Mehdi Hachani.

Mr. MEHDI HACHANI: Young people are angry when they watch the Tunisian TV. They don't see what they are seeing in the street.

BEARDSLEY: Hachani says everybody watched French and Arabic cable stations to get their news. His mother, Mufida Hachani, has spent most of her career as an editor at Tunisian state TV. She says the channel did not find the courage to broadcast the footage of the protesters and police violence at first. But on Friday night, after Ben Ali fled the country, the station did take on-air calls from angry Tunisians for the first time in its history.

Ms. MUFIDA HACHANI (Editor, Tunisian State Television): I'm 56 years old, and I have been fighting for all this time. Never, we have never been free to run our stories. It's a victory. But I hope it will be a victory for a long time there, because they are still there and really, we are afraid.

(Soundbite of music)

BEARDSLEY: Afraid, says Hachani, of the editors from the Ben Ali regime who are still in place. But today, the family can sit together and watch a real, uncensored news broadcast for the first time on Tunisian television.

(Soundbite of TV broadcast)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Speaking in foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: There have been dramatic changes all over Tunisia since the Internet filter came down and the Information Ministry was abolished. Newspapers that had been forced to put an official photo of the president on their front pages every day were instead printing salacious details of the presidential couple's personal life.

A crowd gathers outside a bookshop on Habib Bourghiba Avenue. They're looking in the windows at books on display that were all banned just a week ago. I met the bookshop owner, Selma Jabbes, at last Friday's demonstrations right before the government fell. She spoke then about the difficulty of importing foreign literature. Today, she's beaming as she welcomes customers into her store.

Ms. SELMA JABBES (Bookshop Owner): We have all the books that were forbidden. It's books about the families of Ben Ali, and all books about freedom and about liberty of thinking.

BEARDSLEY: Zeid Hafhouf says he's finally able to get a book written by two French journalists called�"The�Regent of Carthage." It's about President Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, a hated figure here. He says everyone has been dying to read it.

Mr. ZEID HAFHOUF: I'm very happy. It gives me a good reason to stay in my country. Before, I was planning, like, to leave, because I said to myself I could not live in such a country where I cannot be free to read what I want.

BEARDSLEY: Not far from the bookstore, the journalists are in an editorial meeting at Radio Mosaique, one of Tunisia's private stations. While Radio Mosaique pushed the envelope of what was permitted under Ben Ali's rule, many station employees say they lived in fear, even disc jockey Alaeddine Ben Amor.

Mr. ALAEDDINE BEN AMOR (Radio Disc Jockey) We didn't have choices to choose our, really, our music. Really, sometimes, some songs that we had to broadcast on the radio.

BEARDSLEY: Like the songs of Latifa Arfaoui, who was a close friend of the president. Ben Amor says he's deleted all of her songs. And now, he says, he's finally enjoying his freedom and his job.

(Soundbite of song, "Mr. President")

EL GENERAL (Rap Artist): (Rapping in foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: His new favorite artist is rapper El General, who has just been released from prison. Ben Amor puts on El General's scathing ballad about Ben Ali, entitled "Mr. President."

Mr. AMOR: If I played that before, I'd be in jail. That's it.

(Soundbite of song, "Mr. President")

EL GENERAL: (Rapping in foreign language)

BEARDSLEY: Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Tunis.

(Soundbite of song, "Mr. President")

EL GENERAL: (Rapping in foreign language)

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