UNESCO, in collaboration with the Tunisian Ministry of Interior, organized last October training-of-trainers sessions and awareness days for members of the security forces of the Ministry on the safety of journalists and the relationship between the police and the media. The trainings were facilitated by a commander from the Canadian police, in charge of relations with the media.
This project aims at promoting freedom of expression in Tunisia, as well as improving relations between the police and journalists in the context of democratic transition. In this framework, six awareness days were organized for more than 700 cadets and officers of the Ministry of Interior in the training centres and schools of intervention units in Tunis and in the regions (Kairouan, Bizerte, Hammamet, Sousse). About 40 officers also received six-day training-of-trainers at the School of Police of Salambo in Carthage and at the School of the National Guard and Civil Protection in Aouina, near Tunis.
"The training that we received included many practical exercises on the relationship between the police and journalists, particularly during demonstrations or on crime scenes,” said Lt. Osama Mabrouk, from the Tunisian National Guard. “We also studied ethical questions and the rules that security agents have to respect while interacting with the media,” he added.
The trainer, Commander Ian Lafreniere from the Montreal police, said, "I was happy to see the level of knowledge and skills that participants already had, as well as their openness to my feedback.” During awareness sessions at the police academies, several officers explained to him that they had already identified practical applications for the presented topics. "What is difficult for us to accept,” pursued Commander Ian Lafreniere, “is that journalists may challenge us, and that we may commit mistakes. The most important is to find common solutions to bridge the gap between our two professions.”
The training sessions and awareness days also addressed the role of security forces in a democracy, their complementarity with the media, as well as practical mechanisms aimed at ensuring freedom of expression during police operations and major public events.
At the end of the trainings, a study mission to Canada was organized by UNESCO last November. Two trainers from the Tunisian Ministry of Interior and two commanders from intervention units visited the Police Department of the City of Montreal to observe in situ the development of relationship between the security forces and the media, both during field operations and within the police information units.
This series of trainings has been made possible thanks to the support of the Kingdom of Sweden and the Kingdom of Norway.