Ombudspeople in Tunisia
Funded by the German Foreign Office and organized by the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism in cooperation with Mena Media Monitoring, the project "Ombudspeople in Tunisia" aims at establishing media ombudspeople in Tunisian news rooms since 2014. By this, the EBI intends to strengthen media self-regulation in Tunisia and to secure press freedom in the young democracy. By uncovering and sanctioning negative developments in their own industry, media ombudspeople can play a crucial role in (re-)gaining the trust of the audience in the capability of the profession to handle their newly acquired freedoms responsibly.
By the end of the project in 2017, representatives of 24 Tunisian media institutions had attended round tables, workshops and internships in Tunisia, Germany and France. In cooperation with the international Organization of News Ombudsmen the project published a handbook for ombudspeople in Arabic.
In 2014, only one Tunisian news room had tested the concept and employed an ombudsman. In November 2017, nine ombudsman and one ombudswoman are working as mediators for their media organisations. An officially registered association of Tunisian ombudspeople, le Forum des médiateurs de presse tunisiens, was founded in November 2017.
Terrorist attacks, religious conflicts, civil war – the Arab world is in turmoil. Whereas the region from Libya to Iraq suffers from extreme tensions and deadly conflict, Tunisia is still considered as the one positive example for a peaceful and democratic transition. After decades of dictatorship, news forms of a critical and independent journalism could flourish in Tunisia. But the fragile balance in the North-African country is threatened by terrorist attacks and the confrontation of new and old powerholders.
The project aims at supporting the democratic development by strengthening journalists and media institutions and enable them to defend the freedom of the press. Ombudsmen and –women are one among different tools of media self-regulation that the EBI discussed with journalists and media experts from the region since 2010. As mediators, they are responsible to value complaints from the audience about the accuracy and balance or ethical aspects of news reports, as well as to draw attention to grievances of the profession and to enter into dialogue with journalists themselves.