Tunisia, the road to democracy

Free radios - © Chedly Belkhamsa

The Tunisian Revolution, which culminated in the overthrow of the Ben Ali government on 14 January 2011, demonstrated the strength of the Tunisian people’s aspirations to enforce their rights. Today the country faces the challenge of democratic transition. The first elections post-revolution, held on 23 October 2011, helped to elect representatives of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) charged with drafting the new Tunisian Constitution. The construction of democracy, good governance and inclusive development is just beginning in this country that initiated the Arab Spring.

UNESCO's role in Tunisia is to support its democratic transition by providing policy makers and representatives of civil society expertise in promoting human rights and democratic values.

To better meet the needs of Tunisians, in January 2012, UNESCO opened a Project Office in Tunis. The office’s first project was to organize with the Tunisian authorities the World Press Freedom Day 2012 conference in Tunis from 3 to 5 May 2012. The event was attended by over 750 people from nearly 90 different countries. At the end of the conference, participants adopted the Carthage Declaration on press freedom and the safety of journalists.

UNESCO has also provided support to community radio stations in the framework of its participation in the "Community Media and the Arab Spring" conference, organized by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) from 9 to 10 March 2012 in Tunis and from 16 to 18 March in Gafsa. As part of this conference, UNESCO and AMARC implemented training in the Voice of the Mines radio in Gafsa (Sawt al Manajem in Arabic). Young journalists trained at the Voice of the Mines learned reporting and interviewing techniques, gender-sensitive content production, radio management and journalistic ethics.

Freedom of expression and information was at the heart of discussions at two workshops on freedom of expression and access to information held on 2 and 3 July 2012 between members of the NCA’s Commissions on the "Preamble and Fundamental Values" and "Rights and Freedoms" and international experts from UNESCO. At this meeting, the UNESCO experts provide constituents with international standards in freedom of expression and discussed the cases of South Africa and Indonesia.

Media Development Indicators in Tunisia, publication cover - © UNESCO

To contribute to the transformation of the media sector in Tunisia, UNESCO launched in September 2012 a study on media development based on UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators. The study offers 50 recommendations relating to the media regulatory system, media diversity, the role of democratic debate in the media, professional training and available infrastructure.

UNESCO also supports the reform of the Tunisian audiovisual sector in its transition towards a public service model. Tunisian Television hosted two experts between July and October 2012 to prepare a report of the television’s missions, functioning and status. The results of this study will soon be returned to the Tunisian Television. For its part, the Tunisian Radio has launched a broad internal consultation process to develop a code of ethics. A working group, consisting of representatives of different branches of the radio, charged with drafting the new charter was established on 10 September 2012 at a workshop on ethics conducted by a UNESCO expert.

Back to top