Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa
|Publication Date||17 April 2013|
|Cite as||Article 19, Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa, 17 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/519dd11e4.html [accessed 20 November 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
ARTICLE 19 welcomes plans by press unions to establish an independent press council in Tunisia. The decision to create the body was reached at a meeting convened by ARTICLE 19 on April 11 2013 arranged to facilitate discussions about self-regulation in the country.
'The decision reached by those in attendance to create a new self-regulatory body for the press is a great step towards ensuring freedom of expression and a free press in Tunisia. It is crucial that the media and the public work together to protect freedom of the press and to strengthen freedom of expression more broadly in the country, at a time when there are some keen to see critical voices silenced' said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
'The urgency with which industry representatives have set about achieving this task indicates their concern about the state of freedom of the press in the current climate and their desire to protect vital space in society for the free flow of information and for open debate' she added.
Representatives from the Tunisian Federation of Directors of Newspapers (FTDJ), the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), and the Union of independent newspapers and parties (SJIP) were among those who attended the meeting. These groups will represent the core of the press council, which is expected to be officially announced on May 3 to coincide with World Press Freedom Day.
ARTICLE 19 is keen to foster widespread participation in discussions about possible media regulation. Other organisations who attended the meeting included representatives of the Institute of Press and Information Science, the National Authority for Reform of Information and Communication (INRIC), the African Centre for the Training of Journalists and Communicators (CAPJC) and major newspapers in Tunisia.
ARTICLE 19 notes that Article 128 of the draft new constitution which creates "a public body responsible for the organization, regulation and development of the information industry/sector" appears to place the print media under the control of a statutory body. ARTICLE 19 is concerned that this provision does not meet international standards on free expression, which state that the self-regulation of the press is always the preferred method of regulation.
Television and radio broadcasts are the greatest source of information for many people, particularly those in less privileged groups. Broadcasting spectrums (available wavelengths that can carry signals) are limited, unlike the printed press, and they therefore need detailed regulation.
ARTICLE 19 follows with great interest progress towards creating an Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA), which will take on this role in Tunisia. Despite a decision by the government to introduce the body in Decree-Law No. 116 in October 2012, the body has yet to be established.