Journalists of Tunisia's state television Wataniya had a shouting match Monday with protesters who have staged nearly two months of sit-ins outside its offices accusing it of backing the ousted Ben Ali dictatorship.
Shouting "Media of Shame!" the protesters brandished brooms and bottles of chlorine and demanded the "cleansing" of the national broadcaster, while Wataniya employees massed on the other side of the perimeter fence vented anger over the disturbance.
"Our goal is cleanse Tunisian television of corrupt journalists who continue to sow sedition and spread rumours to create discord in the country," said one protester who gave his name only as Zouhair.
Dozens of protesters, mostly supporters of the ruling Ennahda party, have taken it in turns since March 2 to demonstrate outside Wataniya, which they accuse of being controlled by people close to the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, ousted in January 2011.
Wataniya employees "have been victims of verbal aggression for 50 days, and the government won't lift a finger," said one journalist, Moufida Abbassi. "The protesters keep making defamatory remarks against us. We're sick of this situation. We can't work," she told AFP.
A union official, Mohamed Saidi, said they would call a strike on May 3 unless the government intervened, slamming "this mascarade and harassment."
The station employs some 1,300 people.
The interior ministry said at the start of the sit-ins that they did not amount to a public disturbance.
Relations are strained between state media and Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party that won elections in October and now leads the governing coalition.
Wataniya is regularly accused of denigrating the work of the government and even of plotting to overthrow it. On the other hand, many in the media suspect Ennahda of wanting to keep them in check.