North Africa and Middle East Debate Free Media World Chart

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The 2nd International Seminar of the World Free Media Forum in 2014 promotes debates with communicators from Tunisia and community broadcasters across the region

The second seminar for the construction of a Free Media World Letter, part of the Free Media World Forum, was held in Tunis, capital city of Tunisia on the 29th and 30th of March, 2014, composing the week of Conférence sur la Liberté d’expression dans la region Afríque du Nord et Moyen-Orient, promoted by Un Ponte Per, Cospe and FMA with attendance of a representative from the Work Group of Organization of the IV FMWL in charge of the Letter. Ejoussour, Ciranda, Ritimo and Intervozes as part of it.

The opening session of the FMWL was opened with the presentation of the building process of the Free Media World Letter, which began in Tunisia, in 2013. The activity that followed was the été consacrée aux radios associatives-communautaires dans la region Maghreb-Machrek.

Community radio in the Maghreb-Mashreq region

The first activity showcased the process WFFM, specially the last edition, which was marked by a focus on the legal recognition of community radios in the region of Maghreb Mashreq, wich was the subject of the session.

After the exposition, the word was given to representatives of community radios in Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Syria, and they have compiled an overview of the operation of community radios, giving way to debate and exchange.

The closing ceremony was done by an exchange to establish the prospects for effective implementation of a strategy for networking and advocacy in the region, through the presentation of Aswatouna project, the first fund to support the community radio stations in the region. After that, through the Skype communication, the General Secretary of AMARC called for the promotion and strengthening of the recognition of radios.

With strong participation since the III FMWL in 2013, the community radio broadcasting stations wish to focus on a document that will serve to strengthen the sector, like the fight for policy and law that can assure adequate space in the spectrum, license grant, non-criminalization of popular broadcasters.

Writing the Letter, better diffusing the process

In the following morning, the debate was focused on the process of writing the letter itself. The contributions from Porto Alegre and addenda were presented, receiving both suggestions and criticism that were incorporated into it.

The main critic was to the fact that the original text had not been made available in Arab and opened to modifications and bids via internet, which was foreseen in the third edition for the seminar, taking place still in 2014, in Paris. The text will now be open for consult in Arab, French, English, Portuguese and Spanish. A journalist from Algeria spoke of the importance of the letter writing process and his regional interest in contributing, but clamored the majority of those attending not having been given previous access to the draft, in order to address and bring forth more seasoned proposals. It was clear then that regional participation in the letter does not end in this seminar, but should proceed until the final task of editing and approving the text, scheduled to occur in Tunis.

Another participant, a Tunisian radio broadcaster from Monastir, suggested the FMWL to delegate a free media mapping through the internet where different initiatives may be found, by means of trading information and experience.

What is the Letters reach to professionals?

Participants may also argue as to the scope of the letter, if exclusive to independent communicators or inclusive to the right of the conventional media journalists to access and publish information without the threat they usually face. Cheima Ben Hamida, from the Youth Social Forum, a member of the organizing group for the next WSF, argued professional journalists from other media should also take part in debating the Letter.

It was reminded that since the first bids for the free media letter, it is provided the defense of the rights of journalists and communicators, in regards to regulatory necessity of communications means and democratic laws in all sectors. But the Tunisian intervention has helped polemicize the professional acting in the two different contexts, from conventional to independent media work. How wide can free media proposals be when conditioned to market or government interest?

Bessen Krifa proposed that the letter defend specific laws to the protection of bloggers, who are not accepted in the same places as accredited journalists, and are persecuted in social interest coverages. The day prior to the seminar, Bessen was detained by police while covering a protest and had his camera confiscated. He also defended that not everything be mapped and published in the internet, seeing as amongst bloggers acting in areas of great repression there is the legitimate concern in maintaining communication channels closed, for security reasons.

The cultural diversity in the horizon

The meeting featured the presence of a representative of the Kurdish people who lives in Iraq and until recently, couldn’t speak his own language or publicly preserve his culture. He explained the difficulties of a people spread throughout four countries, while facing different oppressive situations, and not being able to count with the adequate means to divulge and defend their rights. The right to culture, memory, history should be respected by the free media, be it Kurdish or Palestinian. Imane reinforced the importance of respect to cultural identity in the document for example, to the Amazir people.

L’atelier consacré à faire avancer le processus d’écriture de la charte, a permis de recueillir des recommandations sur la formulation de certains points (voire document de la charte), à inclure de nouvelles dimensions, notamment celles concernant les relations avec les institutions gérant les champs médiatiques, et la protection des bloggueurs et activistes dans le champ numérique. Retour ligne automatique
Le moment fort de l’atelier a été surtout l’élargissement du processus par la participation de nouveaux acteurs, et activistes. Aussi, l’Irak a rejoint à la dynamique de manière effective, et ont recommandé la tenue du prochain FMML, en Irak, assurant la gestion logistique sur place.

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The tunisian free media articulate

The 3rd workshop in WFFM was organized by the nascent media popular collective of central and southern Tunisia, to analyze the struggles and perspectives of stakeholders in the local information and contribute to the establishment of a strategy for action to strengthen legitimacy and role of community media in Tunisia. The meeting was supported by Cospe organizations, GVC, Ya Basta and Tunisia Bondie Blog, in collaboration with the promoters of the Dynamics of the Forum of Free Media subjects.

It was a symbolic meeting that, given for the first time, the opportunity for a group of basic media representative inland regions of Tunisia to present the network as a form of collective reivendication in the instances of alternative media. At the same time, it stimulated the birth a Tunisian component in the process of WFFM.

The challenges of local information and local media actors are strictly related to the legal recognition of these media, and the legitimacy that these subjects have gained in their contexts of intervention, said Ali Rebah, representative of Radio KFM Kasserine.

According to the vision of Sayahi Abdessalem, coordinator of the 3R Radio Regueb, legitimizing the role of alternative media is not necessarily connected to the professionalism of the information, but also the credibility of the field players. A key issue in the production of local information, including through citizen journalists, still seems to be focused on the implementation of measures for protection against attacks on defenders of freedom of expression. This is the reason for living of the alternative media and the civil society, wiich becomes sponsor of local information, driven by active young people in the territory and highlight the priorities of citizens.

Rafika Bendermel, project coordinator for collective blog Blog Bondie Tunisia Gafsa emphasizes the necessity to strengthen legittimité of these new media through the enhancement of the quality of information available to citizens through the creation of a respet label which guarantees the ethics of journalism. The independence and reliability of information are from this perspective a priority in this stage of transition Tunisian media.

In this context, the theme of neutrality of the alternative media remains a topic of discussion. Interesting reflections are developed with the specific contexts related to: Has the alternative alternative media the legitimacy to become shareholders in defense-related causes rights, justice and the common good, especially in the contexts in which they are the sole source of information for citizens?

Houssem Hajlaoui, former journalist of Nawaat and currently the founder of the online magazine Inkyfada, said that the challenges of the information in Tunisia are changed throughout the three years after the revolution along with the development of the sector. If just after the revolution the challenge was to share opinions and to experience a free debate, and in this context the role of citizen journalists has been crucial, in the current phase of transition the major challenge is to produce reliable information with quality through the development of investigative journalism and a new culture of journalism. The concept of alternative media and citizens is not synonymous with mass media and the professionalisation of the sector through a quality system is essential, as well as collaboration with the mainstream media as partners and not enemies .

Several points of reflection trace the next steps in joint work of the group: the strengthening of networking, placing em up autoconduite codes and standards that can ensure quality and reliability of the information, the capitalization of experiences of free media in the reivendication for recognition.Retour ligne automatique
The process of WFFM, whithout douny, a suitable area for reivendication. Retour ligne automatique
The maturity of Tunis 2015 has the power to increase the momentum.

Brief History

Having had two editions held in 2009 in Belém, and in 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, the III edition of the FMWL, organized in the World Social Forum context, in Tunis, in 2013, approved the beginning of a Free Media World Letter elaboration process, to be presented, debated and introduced in its fourth edition, also to be held in Tunis, in march 2014.

The proposal is to collaboratively produce a document that can serve as reference to the strengthening of community, associative, alternative and independent media connected to social transformation process in various parts of the world. Also part of this universe are collectives willing to develop free technology for the internet as well as movements for democratic laws that can secure freedom of expression, manifestation and access to communication. By branching out to a very wide range activity field, the free media has become a term that expresses the social movement for the right to communication, be it in segments of communications or other fields of society.

In the end of 2013 in Casablanca, Morocco, a Free Media World Forum meeting put forward the proposal, asking for a wide debate filled with a plurality of voices over the letter, done through a series of seminars, during the year of 2014.

The first one took place in Brazil, in the city of Porto Alegre, in January, having international attendance. The foundations of the letter were launched, its references in prior documents, the concepts and types of media involved, giving way to the proposals of common principles and actions that should be featured in the Letter. The second took place in Tunis, in May. Two other seminars were scheduled to happen in France and Morocco.

After Porto Alegre, the draft had bids from Latin-American women collective in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, and from human rights activists from Rio Grande do Norte. Both groups urged the combating by free media of stereotypes imposed to different genre, belief, race or sexual orientation populations.

The following steps of the seminar in Tunis are: the launch of an online consult over the Free Media World Letter, a seminar in Paris and another in Marrakesh, in November, as well as the organization of the IV Free Media World Forum, in March, 2014, in Tunis.

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Rita Freire, Debora Del Pistoia, Imane Bounjara

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