During an appearance on Radio IFM, Khaled Chouket, the official spokesperson for the Government of Prime Minister Habib Essid, made a prayer for the return of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
Stating: “This is to say that God brings him back from exile. I do not want him to stay in Saudi Arabia,” clearly one foot was not enough for Chouket’s mouth who went on: “I do not respect a community which denies its former presidents.”
Disregarding the fact that Ben Ali has been sentenced to life in absentia, that even Ben Ali recognized he had “made mistakes” and without putting words into Chouket’s already full mouth as to what his prayer says of his opinion of the government his is supposed to speak for and the Revolution he is supposed to defend.
The reaction in the background is priceless:
— Sergio Altuna (@wellesbien) March 16, 2016
It is now clear that Khaled Chouket should be, no must be fired.
This is not the first time this government spokesman who can’t seem to control what comes out of his mouth has blundered.
Khaled Chouket’s incompetence was evident from the moment he took the job, in his inaugural press conference during the employment protests which rocked Tunisia in January, after a meeting of cabinet ministers at which he either paid no attention or lacked the intellectual capacity to grasp the content of the meeting or the gravity of the situation Chouket promised that the government would immediately hire 5,000 unemployed persons in Kasserine.
Never mind that the protests had spread beyond Kasserine and other regions would demand the same offer and question why it was not being extended to them. No, that isn’t even the worst part, there weren’t 5,000 jobs, there were instead 5,000 places in employment recruitment programs and even better those numbers weren’t for Kasserine they were national. Considering the protests stemmed from unfulfilled promises by the government and that government hiring is already three times over capacity one has to question if Chouket has any understanding whatsoever of Tunisia’s economic and employment situation. Even if his speech notes were incorrectly written or a verbal lapse had occurred, anyone with a basic understanding would have realized the utter fantasy of what he had said.
Instead Chouket finished his statement, left the podium, no doubt in his mind proud to have solved Tunisia’s problems with his magic wand. A befuddled Slim Chaker, Tunisia’s Finance Minister had to retake the podium to essentially explain that the Tunisian government did not in fact have a solution to the country’s employment problems that it had been keeping in reserve as a surprise for the right time. Slim Chaker had to correct the statement, explain that Chouket had committed a “communication error” and corrected the statement.
Khaled Chouket lacked the dignity, professionalism and testicular fortitude to correct his own statements, like embarrassed child he took an impromptu trip to Morocco to disappear from the public eye. The only thing that prevented his false promise of jobs from adding fuel to the protests was the fact that the unemployed protesters themselves, having more sense than Chouket, knew what he had promised was impossible.
And that was just Chouket’s first week at work.
Last week, Mohsen Marzouk, head of newly formed the Movement of Tunisia’s Project Party took to MosaiqueFM on Wednesday March 9, to criticize as irresponsible statements by Chouket and called on the government “to review its communication strategy”, after an official press conference earlier that day concerning the attack in Ben Guerdane and the situation in Libya, in which Chouket had said “we know the U.S. wants an intervention in Libya.”
Any observer of the Libyan situation is, or should be, well aware that any foreign (i.e. European + U.S.) intervention in Libya will be heavily reliant on a U.S. role, and that the U.S. is practically dragging the Italians into following through on their once stated willingness to lead an intervention, that is not in question.
Chouket’s statement was not inaccurate as an generic amalgam, it is certainly being repeated in cafes and bars, but that it were belongs, far away from the complexities of international and diplomatic language that seem beyond Chouket’s intellectual grasp. Such simplistic generalizations should not come from a government spokseman, particularly not one speaking for a government receiving aid, loans and a day before Chouket spoke military advisers from the U.S.; it is a low brow comment that panders to base suspicions of America, much like certain orange haired U.S. politicians who make an amalgam between Muslims and security. Although when Donald Trump says stupid and offensive things it serves a purpose, his purpose, Khaled Chouket says stupid things for stupid’s sake, unless his purpose is to sabotage the government and bring about Ben Ali’s return which he so eagerly prays for.
Chouket went on MosaiqueFM to responded to Marzouk’s criticism, in an appearance on MidiShow Chouket said he had been reiterating Tunisia’s stated position against a ‘foreign military intervention’, apparently missing the point Marzouk had been trying to make entirely. Had Chouket not loosely swapped foreign with U.S. there would have been no criticism.
Even if it is a view held by members of government, Tunisia is certainly opposed to a 2011 NATO style intervention in Libya, pin prick airstrikes with no follow through, it should fall to the President of the Republic and diplomats to express those concerns to the relevant parties, not buffoons.
Khaled Chouket is a liability and has proven that he is thoroughly unqualified for his position as government spokesman.
Last week the United Kingdom conducted of all things “A new bilateral project designed to assist the Government of Tunisia to strengthen its strategic communications began this week with a three day workshop in Tunis.”
The UK delegation was led by Carol McCall, the Head of Civil Contingency Communications for the UK government who said “Skilled, passionate, talented government communicators don’t just inform their citizens: they provide information to help everyone make choices about their lives – choices which help to build the national economy, save and improve lives, protect the vulnerable, and promote the international reputation of the nation.”
Khaled Chouket, who’s statements could have provoked further rioting in January, may yet provoke consternation from the United States, and is increasingly becoming a National embarassment on the scale of “Baghdad Bob” either did not attend the meeting or (as he had with the ministerial meeting in January) failed to grasp the message.
The government spokesman should project the message, not be the message.
The government spokesman does not have freedom of speech, he speaks for the government at all times.
If Khaled Chouket wants to exercise his own personal freedom of speech than he is merely further demonstrating that not only is he an incompetent spokesman but he lacks a fundamental understanding of the nature of his position.
After promising jobs that don’t exist to protesters tired of empty promises from a government who’s payroll is already over extended, by singling out in undiplomatic language the largest benefactor of military assistance to Tunisia and by longing for the days of the dictatorship one can only wonder what Chouket’s next exploit will be.