Tunis – Nabil Zaghdoud
As Tunisia basks in the success of its own revolution that eventually spurred the Arab Spring, Tunisian media undergoes a difficult transitional period. In the former regime, the media was controlled by the government, resulting in major issues marginalised.
To reform this sector, and make it a true revolution media, new entities were promoted to reform the defected rules.
Arabstoday met with Kamal Obeidi, head of the National Media Reform Committee, to speak about the latest media reforms in Tunisia.
AT: Can the revolution be successful without establishing a free, impartial and independent media sector?
Obeidi: Revolution can only be completed with free media. Establishment of a free press requires more cooperation between journalists, because the challenges are great, especially because of the existence of former regime agents in state institutions. They hinder the process of reform so as to not lose what they obtained in the past.
AT: Recent appointments in a number of media institutions have raised resentments among journalists, what is the committee viewpoint on that?
Obeidi: We have released an official statement, to express that such decisions are the opposite of what should be happening in a democratic state. What is more surprising, is that these decisions did not stop at administrative positions, but reached editorial posts, reminiscent of the state controlled and censored media.
AT: You had two meetings with the president and the government regarding this subject- what happened?
Obeidi: They were very understanding of the importance of journalists electing their own editors. It was agreed to find effective solutions to the problems of the media sector, especially after the recent appointments. Intensive consultations shall be held between the government and press representatives, to reform Tunisian media.
AT: How do you assess the Tunisian media scene?
Obeidi: We can not deny the positive change, especially on the level of freedom of the press. Red lines that led journalists and human rights activists to prison during Ben Ali regime, have disappeared.
There is a great effort by many journalists to do their job according to professional and ethical standards, but there is a need for more training and skill-development, as a restrained media cannot be totally liberated in a few months.
AT: To what extent has the media answered the anticipation of the public?
Obeidi: Our road is not paved with roses, but it is full of thorns and obstacles that must be removed. Reform requires new legislation, since most public and private institutions were used for furthering agendas by the former regime.
AT: The National Media Reform Committee has provided several proposals to the new government to reform media. Could you tell us some of these proposals?
Obeidi: We can not issue a recommendation only a few months after initiating the committee work. That's why we are meeting with Tunisian and international media experts to write our final report.
AT: To what extent does your task of reform seem difficult?
Obeidi: This is part of the recommendations to be ready in a few weeks which will shed light on the status of the sector. There are also new laws of freedom of press, publishing audio and televised media that is yet to be issued.
AT: What are the committee's demands?
Obeidi: We are asking for rapid issuance of laws that shall protect the press. The committee is liberal, and keen to ensure the independence of media institutions and reduce the interference of the executive power in media work.