(IFEX-TMG) - 16 February 2011 - In the aftermath of the momentous events that brought Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali's repressive 23-year regime to an end, a delegation of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG) travelled to Tunis in early February to assess what is needed to rebuild the independent press in Tunisia and ensure freedom of the press and freedom of expression are successfully established.
In meetings with journalists, freedom of expression defenders, union representatives, human rights lawyers and media academics, the delegation heard both the high expectations and immediate concerns of those who for decades stood for the right of Tunisians to have access to a free and independent press.
"As the country begins the transition towards democracy, the stakes are high for the media to play a full role and provide the professional reporting and platform for public debate that was previously never allowed," said Virginie Jouan, Press Freedom Director of WAN-IFRA and member of the IFEX-TMG Chair's committee.
Among the most pressing challenges outlined by the delegation's interlocutors were the imperative to establish an independent institutional framework for the media; a thorough revision of the press laws and other legislation used to stifle opinions and debate; the necessity to strengthen professional standards and management capacity; and to reform journalism education. A new era for the media is urgently needed, also in light of the forthcoming elections.
After decades of repression and blackout, the need to fundamentally reform the media sector and the mindset of journalists is clear. It is a demanding task that calls for concerted action on multiple levels. Those who have struggled for this moment over the past decades however remain highly vigilant, as the old propaganda guard will strive to remain until the very last.
Committed to supporting freedom of expression in Tunisia since 2004, the IFEX-TMG, a coalition of 20 IFEX members, intends to continue providing the expertise required by its Tunisian partners in this extraordinary and critical phase of the country's transformation. It will conduct a series of themed missions and meetings in Tunisia in the coming weeks.
For more on IFEX-TMG, visit http://ifex.org/tunisia/tmg/ or find IFEX-TMG at http://www.facebook.com/IFEXTMG and on Twitter @TunisiaMonitor
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Journaliste en danger
Media Institute of Southern Africa
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee