Although Tunisia is one of the few countries where the ‘Arab Spring’ has led to greater freedom, there are reasons to worry. More journalists risk facing charges and aggression. Investigative journalism can expose injustices, and promote public debate around significant social and political issues. That is why Free Press Unlimited has been supporting journalists in Tunisia since 2014, together with our local partner, Media Development Centre (MDC).

According to the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House, Tunisia saw a decline in press freedom in 2015. This was caused by an increase in prosecutions of journalists and bloggers, repeated assaults by security forces on media personnel in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, and increased government pressure on the national broadcaster and the independent media regulatory body.

Reinforcement

Media Development Centre (MDC) is a Tunisian organisation, founded in 2014. MDC works for the development of high-quality Tunisian media in service of the citizen's right to information, and for the strengthening of the capacities of professionals working in the various written, audiovisual and electronic media. Free Press Unlimited and MDC developed a programme to improve the capacities of Tunisian journalists.

Training onderzoeksjournalistiek MDC   Training onderzoeksjournalistiek MDC

After the first phase of this programme was closed successfully in 2016, the second phase of this programme will focus in 2017 on the reinforcement of the investigative skills of regional journalists, by offering technical and financial support in carrying out their investigations. Three groups of ten regional journalists operating in the public and private media benefit from this programme.

Training

The first investigative journalism training organised by MDC was held in January 2017. Mohamed Raies Toukabri (46), editor-in-chief of the local TAP office in Nabeul, explains why he participated in this training: “Being a journalist requires to continue to learn and innovate, even at my age. Our challenge in the current context of Tunisia is to balance our acquired freedom while equally being responsible. Due to the transition towards online journalism, the pressure to publish in a short time frame has increased. It obligates us to keep in mind the basics of journalism and to triple check our work before publishing. After all, a pen can be more powerful than a gun because an investigative story can trigger a national crisis.”

Training onderzoeksjournalistiek MDC   Training onderzoeksjournalistiek MDC   

Future

More investigative journalism training sessions will follow in April and July. The programme will be closed in September, when a large publication of the surveys carried out by the participating journalists will be presented, and the best works will be awarded at a closing ceremony. By improving the number and quality of journalistic investigations, Tunisian media play a critical role in informing Tunisian citizens and promoting public debate around significant social and political issues.

Watch the video (partly in French and Arabic) below to get an impression of the first investigative journalism training organised by MDC, in January 2017.