Skyline Discusses Future of Freedom of Expression in Tunisia
The Skyline International Foundation held yesterday at its headquarters in Madrid an online debate with various analysts and experts in journalism, human rights, politics, gender studies, and economics within the discussion on freedom of expression in the Mediterranean. Five analysts on three different continents discussed the future of freedom of expression in Tunisia.
The event was led by Daniel F. Rivera Ph. D., director of the Skyline Foundation. It included David Perejil, journalist, and expert in Spain-Tunisia relations, Kevin M. DeJesus, associate professor of international relations at Johnson & Wales University; Claire Oueslati-Porter, director of Gender Studies and professor at the University of Miami, Mansour Ayouni, political analyst and expert in new technologies, and finally Abdessalam Zoubaid, Tunisian journalist and former political adviser in parliament. They discussed for two hours the Arab country's progress when the Jasmine Revolution is about to celebrate it's ten anniversary, which meant not only a radical transformation of Tunisia but also the beginning of the Arab springs in North Africa and the Middle East.
The debate's main topic was to discuss the progress and future of freedom of expression in Tunisia since the revolution in December 2010. During the meeting, speakers discussed various issues related to freedom of expression and human rights.
All participants agreed in stating that Tunisia has undergone a considerable transformation during these ten years. There are many more publications, television channels, or radio due to the climate of freedom experienced since the transition. Tunisians are now able to speak freely and meet freely. The years of repression and media control are over, though not wholly.
According to the Freedom House, and other international organizations such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, there have been cases were journalists were pressured, and the government has admitted to be monitoring some reporters.
Several speakers also highlighted the weak position in which the country finds itself: the slow economic recovery, youth unemployment, the influence of powerful financial lobbies, interference from third countries, or radical jihadist tendencies are problems that must be addressed very seriously because they could hinder the development of this incipient freedom of expression. Topics such as the position of women in that society and the role of new technologies and the Internet were addressed as well.
The panel agreed in stating that Tunisia is at a crucial moment in its history. The young Tunisian democracy still has to face many challenges to establish itself as a stable and competent system with a vocation for the future.
The new constitution and the new legislation that regulates the media have been steps in the right direction. Still, one of the speakers highlighted, Tunisia has been acquiring experience in recent years. It is now up to the political class to measure up, acting with the interest of all Tunisians in mind.
Perhaps it is still too early to consider Tunisia as an adaptable democratic model for other countries in the region. After all, Tunisia is immersed in a transformation process, and there are still many issues to be resolved. Most of the speakers agreed that the Tunisian experience is of great value and can become a model to inspire other emerging democracies in the region.