Paying tribute to Tunisian journalists, British Ambassador Hamish Cowell said on World Press Freedom Day:
Freedom of expression in Tunisia is among the many significant achievements of the revolution, and huge progress has been made since January 2011. On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, I would like to reiterate the UK’s commitment to supporting freedom of expression and the media in Tunisia, including through over £2.6m in project support since 2011. This includes BBC support to the development of Watania TV as a public service broadcaster, encouraging responsible reporting on controversial issues through Search for Common Ground’s journalists’ dialogue, and Article 19’s work to facilitate the establishment of progressive legal and regulatory framework for freedom of expression and the establishment of media regulator HAICA.
The press in any country has a central role to play in ensuring an open and objective debate on the issues that matter to the public, and the media, and a good regulatory framework are essential elements of Tunisia’s democratic transition, which the UK is working to support.
To mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day, we’re also highlighting the role played by community radio stations in airing the views of Tunisians across the country, through an event co-hosted by Article 19 and its partner organisations(*).
On World Press Day, Article 19 and its partners would like to “express their support for the Independent High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA) and reiterate their full support to efforts to regulate the audio-visual scene , in order to ensure the independence, pluralism and diversity of the media in Tunisia. It is crucial for the democratic stabilisation of the country that people have access to diverse and pluralistic information, including through the media.
BBC Media Action, who are supporting Watania TV’s development as a public service broadcaster through a £1.7m UK-funded project, are also celebrating World Press Freedom Day. Khulood Al-Saidi, BBC Media Action project coordinator said:
On such an occasion, we are reminded for the need for information and the important role played by media institutions. Thanks to support from the British Embassy, BBC Media Action has empowered 200 Tunisian TV management and media professionals since April 2012 and provided them with targeted training, support and editorial consultancy. As a result, Watania TV’s staff is more capable of producing quality news bulletins that capture the highest rates of viewership and cater for the views of under-represented audiences such as youth and women. The project has also contributed to the establishment of the new audio-visual regulatory body, HAICA, and has provided it with specific support and guidance.
The UK’s recently issued Annual Human Rights report for 2013 also highlighted Tunisia’s efforts to support freedom of expression, including its hosting of the annual Freedom Online Conference in Tunis in June 2013, a testament to its commitment to freedom of expression, and which enabled debate on key themes, including a free and secure internet and digital development and openness.
(*) Article 19 partners: BBC Media Action, Community Media Solutions (CMS), The Euro -Mediterranean Foundation for Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRN), International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Hirondelle Foundation, Civil Coalition for the Defence of Freedom of Expression, the ‘Vigilance’ Association for Democracy and Civil Status , the Tunisian Union of Free Radios (STRL), and the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
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