UNESCO partners with Tunisian Ministry of the Interior to improve safety of journalists

In the context of support for institutional reforms in Tunisia undertaken by the United Nations, UNESCO and the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior began a cooperation programme in January 2013 aimed at training security forces on human rights, freedom of expression and safety of journalists.

The programme, which aims to improve relations between security forces and journalists, is particularly important in a time of democratic transition. It is the first of its kind in the Arab region. The programme will include a series of trainings for members of the Ministry of Interior security forces (Police, National Guard and Emergency Preparedness services).

The first training was held from 28 January to 13 February at the l’Ecole de formation des cadres de la Police de Salambo. This training of trainers included sessions that brought together members of the security forces and journalists, helping to create a space for dialogue between these two groups so that everyone better understands the situation and the role and needs of the other in a democracy. They also enabled the participants to discuss the challenges of maintaining public order while respecting human rights.

"This training programme was organized because there were many clashes between security forces and journalists, especially during demonstrations, civil unrest and large trials,” said Mehdi Benchelah, Head of the UNESCO Project Office in Tunis. “The police and journalists will continue to cross each other in the news field. It is essential to initiate a dialogue if we are to reduce tensions and strengthen freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Tunisia,"

The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), a project partner, facilitated the participation of journalists in the training. In total, 20 members of the Police, National Guard and Emergency Preparedness, and 10 Tunisian journalists attended the first training. Other training sessions will be organized in the coming months in the region.

The programme will additionally include the adoption by the Ministry of the Interior of a code of conduct for members of its security forces to improve media relations and the safety of journalists.

The programme aims to support the reform of security institutions and democratic transition in Tunisia. It received the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a mandate to protect freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.