On Tuesday 26 June 2018, UNESCO organized a conference-debate in Tunis, Tunisia, to launch the Arabic version of its latest report on global trends in freedom of expression and media development -2017- 2018. This launch, organized in partnership with the Tunisian Press and Information Science Institute (IPSI) and with the support of Sweden and Norway, aimed to present this report to the Tunisian public and to debate in the presence of all actors and stakeholders concerned by freedom of expression in Tunisia.
"These reports help to decipher a reality that is often difficult and complex (...) and to better guide, channel our efforts and increase our work in strengthening the independence of the media and freedom of expression. These are fights in which we register as an instance.", says Nouri Lajmi, president of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA).
The conference brought together prominent academics and media experts, parliamentarians, journalists, bloggers, representatives of national and international civil society organizations, representatives of professional structures and regulatory institutions.
Bochra Belhadj Hmida, Deputy and Chairperson of the Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality (Colibe), stressed that "civil society has an important role to play and a historic responsibility to sensitize parliamentarians to begin and succeed in ongoing reforms".
Sylvie Coudray, Head of the Section for Freedom of Expression at UNESCO, presented the global trends, and in the Arab region, in terms of freedom of expression and media development and presented the challenges and areas of progress and opportunities in advancing freedom, pluralism and independence of the media, as well as the safety of journalists. Sylvie Coudray also focused on gender equality in the media.
Tunisia, which has been experiencing rather positive trends in freedom of expression and press freedom since 2011, still faces challenges in addressing legal and practical reform of the sector. The second panel of the conference-debate allowed Tunisian actors to trace the main challenges and issues related to the new legal framework of the media, the independence and strengthening of the regulation and self-regulation of the media, the reform of public media, the safety of journalists and gender equality.
Arbi Chouikha, expert and academic in information sciences, explained that "any process of developing a legal framework to regulate the media must imperatively be designed and conceived in a dynamic that is specific to the reform movement to be initiated in all media", adding that "the will of a reform in post-14 January Tunisia can only emanate from the state and in total symbiosis with the public institutions ".
Since 2011, Tunisia has experienced continuous media changes and attempts for a legal and practical reform of the sector, posing complex challenges.