IFES Trains Tunisian Journalists Ahead of Key Local Elections
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is currently organizing a series of trainings for Tunisian community radio and print journalists. The goal of these training sessions is to build the capacity of Tunisian journalists – including journalists working in the marginalized interior regions – to provide accurate, analytical and impartial coverage of the upcoming municipal elections and the decentralization process. During the next local elections, these journalists will play a crucial role in disseminating key information to citizens about candidates and issues and informing them about how to participate in the electoral process. The training courses are organized in conjunction with the Tunisian Union of Associative Media and supported by funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the United States Agency for International Development.
The first workshop, which took place from November 24 to 26 in Sfax, provided journalists with an introduction to elections and decentralization. Sixteen journalists from seven community radio stations and three regional newspapers attended the training. With guidance from IFES trainers, the journalists produced a radio interview on decentralization with Mokhtar Hammami, the general director of Local Self-Governing Bodies at the Ministry of Local Affairs; a radio interview on the role of the High Independent Authority for Elections (ISIE) and the regional election commissions with ISIE Commissioner Nabil Baffoun; an article on decentralization; a radio segment on Sfax residents’ expectations for the municipal and regional elections; and a pedagogical radio spot highlighting the eight main stages of the electoral process. Following the training, two of the participating community radio stations aired the interview with Mokhtar Hammami.
The second workshop focused on gender-sensitive reporting and how to cover vulnerable, under-represented populations, such as persons with disabilities and Tunisians with little to no literacy. From January 26 to 29, 26 journalists from 12 community and online radio stations and four newspapers gathered in Tozeur to attend training sessions led by representatives from IFES, the ISIE, the Tunisian Organization for the Defense of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. During the final two days of the workshop, the journalists traveled to neighboring areas, where they put what they had learned into practice by creating radio segments and writing articles about issues relevant to women, persons with disabilities and illiterate Tunisians.
Jihen Mathlouthi, a participant who works for Chams El Janoub, commented that the training had served as a “bridge between [his] theoretical knowledge of election campaign coverage and its practical elements” and added that the training gave him “a holistic view of the coverage of an election campaign and how to introduce gender, persons with disabilities and illiterate people into journalism.” Subsequent trainings will focus on the legal framework for the municipal and regional elections, legal and technical aspects of the decentralization process and providing balanced and analytical electoral coverage. The journalists will also receive in-person coaching and remote mentoring from IFES experts to ensure they are able to translate what they learned in the trainings into informative reporting that will increase the Tunisian population’s level of information about elections, decentralization and their civic responsibilities.