Celebrating World Radio Day in Tunisia
On May 6, 2018, Tunisia will democratically elect 350 municipal councils for the first time. This landmark election will set the country’s decentralization into motion. In this context, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) worked toward building the capacity of local journalists in covering the forthcoming elections in an impartial, balanced and equitable manner. Access to accurate and objective information on elections is essential for the voters to make an informed choice at the ballot box.
In partnership with the Tunisian Union of Community Media (UTMA), IFES trained 20 local radio journalists who undertook four mutually reinforcing vocational training workshops that covered all phases of the electoral cycle. The in-depth professional development program alternated interactive theoretical presentations on electoral themes, practical exercises and role plays, combined with content production. This cycle of events offered these 20 citizens journalists both electoral expertise and journalistic techniques, while working on the specificities of media coverage of elections and the principles governing it: equity, accuracy, plurality and balance.
"Today, at the end of this training cycle, we can finally say that a group of local journalists has been built to cover the next municipal elections in a professional way," said Mr. Moez Jemai, an IFES journalist-trainer, at the delivery of the certificates marking the closing of a series of four trainings whose highlight was a media coverage Election Day simulation.
In addition, IFES provided individual coaching sessions to local journalists to capitalize on the knowledge acquired during the training workshops. The coaching program provided an opportunity to practice newly acquired skills and to consolidate the progress made during the vocational training. Every community radio station that was coached by IFES produced a radio program called “An eye on the municipality” focusing on electoral awareness and on the issue of decentralization. Every radio station aired the show many times with an overall total of 124 radio shows broadcast using a variation of local and regional angles.
“An eye on the municipality” continues to be aired periodically. Radio journalist Neder Blel said: "Today, thanks to this training cycle, we are equipped to cover the next elections in an objective and impartial way and we are able to produce journalistic content on elections that conforms to international standards, both in form and substance. But above all, we have become capable of leading journalistic production from the upstream to the downstream, from the conception of the idea of reporting to editing."
As a result of these sustained and continuous efforts since November 2016, local radio journalists are capable of producing and conducting a professional radio program and covering any elections, not only in accordance with the international standards of journalistic production, but also in respect to the principles of balance and equity between candidates. They have also developed their electoral technical expertise to cover complicated legal issues. "We are proud to be the first group of journalists in Tunisia trained to ensure media coverage of the upcoming elections," said Houssem Ben Fradj, a radio journalist from Nefzawa in the Kebili governorate.
To complement these efforts and offer new opportunities to the radio journalists to practice their newly acquired skills on elections, IFES built a mobile studio that allows radio shows to be aired in remote areas. Thanks to this studio, community radios can go deeper into localities and get closer to citizens who lack access to information. Together with the UTMA, IFES designed a program called “Soutkom” (Your Voice) that was conceptualized to give a voice to citizens, to increase the information available on the municipal elections and raise awareness about the decentralization process. It aims to give citizens, local authorities, representatives of non-governmental organizations and experts a platform to discuss the needs and priorities of local communities in the context of the forthcoming municipal elections.
The IFES mobile radio s studio travelled throughout the country stopping in 10 localities, including new created municipalities in which municipal elections will take place for the first time. “Soutkom” revolved around different problems that citizens face in their neighborhood and how effective municipalities could tackle those issues and contribute to the betterment of living conditions in these localities. “Soutkom” is not only a radio show but a bridge between local authorities and citizens to facilitate communication and open a dialogue in the context of decentralization entrenched in the 2014 Tunisian constitution.
For World Radio Day, IFES will put the mobile studio at the disposal of one of the most successful community radio stations in Tunisia: Radio Nefzawa FM from the region of Kebili, where it will broadcast radio shows about the role of radios in reporting on the election process.
The IFES media-related program in Tunisia has been supported by the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative and the U.S. Agency for International Development.