Tunisia – One Year Later


Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution only exploded after of years of pain and suffering. Their years-long struggle is usually romanticized by attributing the suicide of one young man as the spark that lit a new flame of bravery and courage. The struggle for Tunisians and their neighbours is far from over, and this week, thousands in Tunisia protested against the political rise of conservative Islam. Immolations have reportedly increased across the Arab world; though we don’t know if it only seems that way now because, prior to Mohammed Bouazizi, hardly anyone was looking. A year of the Arab Spring has seen hundreds of thousands more seeking a new life away from harsh economic and social conditions receive an increasingly hostile, unwelcoming reception in Europe or farther afield. Here is a summary of posts about Tunisia: one year later.

Tunisia: A Revolutionary Model?

A year after the Jasmine Revolution, can the country’s new government fix the vast social injustices that triggered it?

One year ago, Tunisia overthrew decades of oppression and dictatorship. Its revolution rocked the Middle East and inspired the ‘Arab Spring’.Now, Tunisia has adopted an interim constitution, held free and fair elections, and is becoming a modern democratic state. But does the recent electoral success of the Islamists herald a return to narrow, sectarian rule or consensual leadership?Will the interim president, Moncef Marzouki, be able to bridge the divide between secular, democratic principles and more extreme views?And perhaps the biggest question of all is can the new government fix the ailing economy and vast social injustices that triggered the Tunisian revolution in the first place?

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by Al Jazeera English 28 Jan, 2012 posted with vodpod

Tunisian media: One year after the revolution

By Fahem Boukadous for CPJ 23 Jan, 2012

The doses of freedom that the Tunisian revolution injected into national media have not been sufficient to revive it after decades of systematic destruction. It is not surprising that our evaluation of media one year after the tyrant fell reveals more negativity and pessimism.

Public media remains unchanged. The ministry of the interior and the Carthage Palace are no longer the source of instructions, leaving this role to [Prime Minister’s spokesman] Moez Sinaoui, who firmly prevented media and political figures from appearing on TV for being radical critics of the interim authorities. He banned discussion of heated topics such as post-revolution torture cases, the involvement of public figures in corruption, and criticism of the government of Beji Caid El-Sebsi. Nonetheless, some journalists attempted to address these topics, and as a result they have been marginalized and intimidated by the administration, which has preserved all characteristics of the former regime.

Meanwhile, for the majority of private media institutions that were established and maintained through generous grants and bribes extended by the political regime in exchange for covering up its crimes and cheering for its fictitious achievements, it was difficult to break old habits. Instead, these private institutions took advantage of the chaotic media scene to flood the market with headlines that increased the share of tabloid journalism, which relies on scandals and personal and familial secrets for income. These tabloids became rich as they monopolized government and private sector advertisements. This source of income enabled trash newspapers to increase publication and raised additional suspicions regarding the course of the evolution of Tunisian media. Journalists’ poor professionalism and lack of confidence in the prospects of evolutionary change helped consolidate this pattern.

The press in Tunisia, like in other countries, is not measured only by the multiplicity of headlines, the number of laws, and editorial content but also by the existence of an overall favorable climate for practicing journalism. In this latter regard, the evaluation returned very poor results, as many violations against press freedoms and journalists were documented. These violations include assaults by the security apparatus, prevention of media coverage of events, confiscation of work tools, intimidation, tasking the anti-crime unit with investigating complaints against journalists, and frequent dismissal of dozens of journalists from private media institutions subject to the whims of employers whose wealth has been associated with the deposed regime.

At the same time as the newly elected government was assuming office last month, journalists and the press were facing harder challenges, including repeated physical assaults. In addition to the typical assaults by security forces experienced under Ben Ali’s regime, we are now faced with political and Salafi militias that have already carried out repeated assaults and issued threats to kill journalists and burn media institutions, accusing them of political bias and moral degradation .

Wrong messages sent by the new government have increased tension, suggesting that real risks await the free press in Tunisia. More than one government official has stated that public media should reflect the views of the parties elected, alluding to the ruling troika. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali even spoke of state media instead of public media. On Saturday, January 7, the Jebali government appointed new officials to head public media institutions, including three editors-in-chief. The measure was entirely rejected by journalists, free press organizations, civil society activists, and several political parties on grounds that it constitutes a regression since the appointees included figures known for their close ties with the deposed regime. The appointments created tension within the coalition government as the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties and the Congress for the Republic, both of which are partners of the Islamist Al-Nahda party in the government, issued statements rejecting the appointments and demanding that those who were used by the former regime to destroy and repress the media sector be excluded. The sit-ins organized by journalists and their supporters in several cities in Tunisia on Monday, January 9, calling for more vigilance to safeguard the most important asset in post-revolution Tunisia, raised awareness about the seriousness of the situation.

Despite the deep wounds the deposed regime inflicted on the press, the sacrifices of martyrs still inspire us to revolutionize the media sector. The current situation strengthens the ambitions of the incumbent government to control or contain the media sector under different names. Resisting these tendencies cannot be carried out in conjunction with the forces that supported the former regime and became tainted by its crimes, not only because they lack the legitimacy to shoulder this responsibility but also because engaging them would simply weaken the endeavor.

I believe that the path to liberate the media is a long and thorny one and is closely linked to the nature of the democratic transition in Tunisia. I believe that concentrating on the following three themes would put us on the right track:

  • Incorporate the media issue into transitional justice, meaning that dismantling the system of oppression and corruption in the media sector must take place through legal channels since the crimes committed against the media – whether the multi-million dinar bribes paid for in taxpayer money or the police reports against the press – resulted in the detention, starvation, and suspension of journalists and the overthrowing of legitimate professional bodies, as was the case with the National Union of Tunisian Journalists. Opening the archives of the ministry of the interior, the prime ministry and the Agency for External Communication would provide the judiciary with sufficient evidence to convict many journalists who hypocritically joined the revolution and are leading the media sector today in search of their lost innocence. One crucial step in this regard is to promptly draft a black list.
  • Stipulate in the constitution the freedoms of expression, publication, and creativity, the independence of the media and the right of access to information. These principles must be free of exemptions and limitations that would render them pointless and nullify their supremacy. Reconsider the laws that provide for detention of media personnel under any justification whether political or ethical.
  • Assign a reforms commission to oversee, regulate, and protect the media sector from abuses and violations. The commission must be founded on a broad base of experts, professionals, and activists from free expression organizations. However, the commission must not have powers parallel to those vested in the judicial authority.

It is unlikely that these or other prescriptions will be adopted easily, considering the ferocity anticipated from those who make their living off the backward media sector and those looking to control and domesticate the sector. Therefore, journalists need to exert additional collective efforts in order to convey their protests with the help of civil and political society organizations as well as free press and free expression international organizations.

One Year after January 2011, Tunisia’s Unfixed Economy Still Triggers Public Discontent

by  | Jan 24, 2012

Photo: Rym kmita

More than twelve months ago, Thousands of Tunisians helped topple a dictatorship that ruled the country for 23 years. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, former Tunisian president was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia on January 14th, 2011, after one month of popular protests that swiped the entire country.

The few weeks that followed the overthrow of Ben Ali were critical. The country witnessed several stages of political and security vacuums. Sit-ins and work strikes took over. Several companies, such as the national telecommunication company Tunisie Télécom, shut off its doors. Other small enterprises faced bankrupcy. Foreign investors were also tempted to leave the country after a wave of burglary and unsafely ruled the moment. Several warehouses including stores of Monoprix, Géant, Phillips, etc.

Tunisians had high expectations regarding the improvement of their financial situations. Trade unions played a big role to monitor the strikes, which claimed recruitments, increase of wage and social security. Strikes swept the country – disrupting sometimes the public order – to force the government’s hand to succumb to these demands. Frustration was around the corner as the government was not always so eloquent to meet everybody’s demands.

For many Tunisians the system in charge was not fit to implement new reforms up to their aspirations, simply because, Ben Ali did not only maintain a dictatorial regime in the country; he also created a complex economical-political system that succeeded in giving him a tight hold on power. Tunisians might have ousted the head of a dysfunctional regime, but they cannot topple the system overnight because they are the system themselves.

The IMF’s recent reports presumed a null growth rate for the Tunisian economy at best, while prices reached a high peak.

Sit-ins, strikes and demonstrations never stopped since January 14th, 2011. This was often a reminder that many Tunisians haven’t felt the change yet and The country’s sinking economy was far from alleviating the situation either. Thousands of Tunisians still rally in front of major companies asking for their rights to work. Partisan and non-partisan demonstrations are also often riddled with demonstrators asking for social justice and dignity. It seems that the high rates of unemployment that inflamed the uprisings of late 2010-early 2011 has still not declined leaving hundreds of thousands of Tunisians, jobless, hungry and with no shelter.

In the week that preceded the one year anniversary of January 14th, the village of Redeyf – Southwest of Tunisia – declared general strike. The village is home to one of the main 5 sources of phosphates worldwide, CPG – Companie de Phosphate de Gabes – which is also the main employer of the region. Yet, the region has one of the highest unemployment rates in Tunisia, despite its little population.

The youth of Redeyef were already subject to a brutal government crackdown that led to the arrest and murder of dozens of protesters and syndicalist – the exact number is still undocument yet – and a severe marginalization of the region.

Mohamed Sghayir, spokesman of the regional workers trade union, UGTT, in Gafsa, says that “despite efforts for domestic invest more in the region, the previous government could not fulfill the needs of the people.” CPG’s executives have even alarmed the public opinion that the company’s threatened by the unceasing strikes and the “unrealistic” demands in a press conference last December. Many of the company’s regional offices were already subjected to robbery and sabotage. The company’s executives do not, now, refute the fact that company could face bankruptcy in the near future. If the CPG would shut off its doors, this will lead to the layoff of more than 5000 breadwinners.

The road that leads to Redeyf, Gafsa, is dirty and has few road lights. No lights loom in the horizons when you approach it by car. The village sits literally in the middle of nowhere.

Redeyef. Photo: Ali Garboussi

A recurrent state of concern regarding the country’s falling economy is now common between Tunisians even when it comes to the size of the new cabinet to govern the country and how much should each member be paid. The inflation of prices is also a predominant concern for Tunisians who, with the devaluation and falling exchange rate of the Tunisian Dinar, are facing a decreasing buying power.

One month after taking oath, the new elected government hasn’t expressed any concrete actions to responds to the people’s social demands, despite the dispute that accompanied the budget plan of this year nearing the end of December. While the youth of Redeyef swore of “forcing the government’s hand” to make them respond to their demands and develop more growth strategies for the area, the government is still centralized toward other disruptions in the capital city, Tunis; Recent demonstrations broke out lately to denounce the government over interference in the public media sector and suppress of media. Another controversy arose lately about a sex-tape that allegedly shows the current minister of interior of interior Ali Larayedh engaging in homosexual activity. The youth of Redeyef and another regions of Tunisia such as Om Larayas or Mdh’ila have little knowledge of these controversies and have little concern about the. Yet, these little insignificant “he said, she said” seems to preoccupy the government’s activity and current plans.

Which priorities should the World Bank support?


Tunisia demonstrated one year ago that citizens’ voice matters. Accountability is a must.  Government legitimacy is key. Starting from Tunisia, a wave of revolutions now commonly referred to as the “Arab Spring” spread to the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Citizens demanded voice, accountability and opportunity for all, not only for a selected few and mostly privileged. The World Bank has taken significant steps to support this rapid and positive change.

The World Bank is keen on ensuring that its engagement responds to the concerns expressed during and following the Arab Spring and that it can be adapted to the pressing needs of Tunisian citizens as they make headway in better defining their priority and needs. However, challenges remain, due to economic and social constraints that, among other things, translate into a lack of sufficient jobs, which has the potential to absorb the increasing number of job-seeking youth.

This document outlines the  World Bank’s upcoming Strategy for Tunisia for 2012-2013.   For your reference, this powerpoint provides an explanation as to what the World Bank does and the purpose and content of an Interim Strategy Note. The World Bank Group hopes to continue to support the change taking place in Tunisia during these exciting yet challenging times.

Social media and online tools have been important media outreach mechanism for the Arab Spring particularly in reaching out to the youth in the region. We plan to utilize this medium to our advantage. In this discussion, we propose four questions to frame the discussion and seek your feedback:

  • How do you think the World Bank could best assist Tunisia during this transition period?
  • Do you think that the World Bank Interim Strategy adequately addresses the most pressing issues that Tunisians face today?
  • What risks do you think Tunisians face today?
  • What opportunities have been made available since the revolution?

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