News / Africa

Tunisia's Media Savor Freedom

Men look at newspapers at a street kiosk in downtown Tunis, 19 Jan 2011
Men look at newspapers at a street kiosk in downtown Tunis, 19 Jan 2011
Lisa Bryant

It is deadline time at Realites, a small weekly news magazine in downtown Tunis.  Journalists race to get their articles in, making last phone calls and checking facts to report on history.  Since the weekly's last edition, Tunisians have toppled their long-term leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in what they call their "Jasmine" revolution.

Now journalists like Realites' Azza Turki, 29,  are struggling with the chaos that has followed, Tunisia's shaky interim government, the demonstrations and the unrest.

Keeping up with change

Turki says Tunisian journalists have not be able to keep up with the fast moving events here.  Each time they try, the news changes.

It is a revolution for the media here, as well.  On Monday, interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced the government was lifting all restrictions on the media.  He also abolished the Information Ministry, which muzzled the media during Ben Ali's 23 years in power.

For Realites' Editor in Chief Zyed Krichen, the new-found freedoms have brought the weekly back to its initial goals - to be a truly independent publication.

Krichen says that, under the post-independence government of Tunisia's former president Habib Bourguiba,  Realites did have a certain amount of room to maneuver, even if it was often suspended for months for allegedly defaming members the government.  He says that,  under Ben Ali,  that freedom disappeared.

Key players in Tunisia

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for more than two decades. He fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14.

Mohamed Ghannouchi

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is a close ally of the ousted president. He announced a new unity government this week.

Fouad Mebazaa

Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as Tunisia's interim president last week. H previously served as the speaker of parliament.

Najib Chebbi

Najib Chebbi is the founder of the largest and most credible opposition group, the Progressive Democratic Party.

Moncek Marzouki

Moncek Marzouki is the head of the small Congress for the Republic party. The formerly exiled political activist and opposition leader returned to the country Tuesday.

Rachid Ghannouchi

Rachid Ghannouchi is the exiled leader of the outlawed Ennahdha Islamic fundamentalist movement. In 1992, a Tunisian military court sentenced him to life in prison on a conviction of plotting to overthrow the government. He has been living in Britain but has indicated he may now return to Tunisia. He is no relation to the prime minister by the same last name.

Krichen says there were lots of taboos, under Ben Ali.  The media could not criticize the president or his family.  They could not report on scandals touching the government or powerful businesses or electoral fraud.

Social media role

It was cyberspace, notably Facebook, Twitter and blogs that disseminated the information driving Tunisia's power change, not the traditional media.  Tunisia's press barely reported on the protests until Ben Ali's departure.

Now, evening news is full of Tunisians criticizing the government.  Tunisia's state television has changed direction.  Some newspapers have followed suit, firing their editors-in-chief.  

The events in Tunisia may be a warning signal for other Arab states, where media restrictions are common.  Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders gave poor marks to the Middle East and North Africa in its latest media freedom index. Tunisia scored near the bottom.  "Predator of press freedom leaves," Reporters Without Borders says of Ben Ali's departure.

At Realites, the reporters now have one restriction - their deadline. They have to put their news magazine to bed before dark.

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid