12 January 2012 8:48 pm | | 2

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Bloggers, politicians, activists, and noted French and Tunisian media figures convened at the Golden Tulip Hotel in downtown Tunis today for Tunisia’s first ever international digital journalism forum: the 4M conference.

The event, entitled “Tunisia: Revolution, Transition, and Mutation,” brought together big-ticket names such as Edwy Plenel (former editor-in-chief of Le Monde and founder of Mediapart) and Emna Menif (co-founder of Tunisian political party Afek Tounes) with bloggers, government transparency activists, and local and foreign journalists.

The event was scheduled to roughly coincide with the anniversary of the revolution in Tunisia. However, rather than a jubilant celebration of a new era of freedom of expression, the conference was characterized by a considerable amount of cynicism expressed by the Tunisian speakers at the event.

Sihem Bensedrine, co-founder of Tunisian dissident radio station Radio Kalima, went so far as to accuse major Tunisian media of remaining more or less unchanged since the country’s uprising last January.

“The traditional media in Tunisia has opened up without really changing the mechanisms of censorship,” said Bensedrine.

Other speakers, such as the Tunisian bloggers Nadia Ayadi and Mehdi Lamloum, echoed Bensedrine’s pessimism, saying that local media was in a state of stagnation. The bloggers also asserted that the role of new media and citizen journalism was not as large as it was once thought to have been.

Ayadi was critical of the wild speculation that has circulated on social media in Tunisia since last year’s events. He stated that these platforms for expression have created a sort of “disinformation machine,” which has been exploited by various Tunisian political interests.

After being attributed with an influential role during the revolution, bloggers and citizen journalists found themselves somewhat disappointed by the reality of their reach within Tunisian society.

“We don’t have the weight we thought we had,” said Lamloum, explaining that the online voices that became known the world over after January 14th were not being heard by Tunisia’s more marginalized population.

Lamloum was not without hope however. He described the defeat of secular parties in Tunisia’s October elections as a wakeup call, and urged online activists to change their methods. Lamloum encouraged the creation of more content, for example, in Tunisian Arabic, rather than the French and Standard Arabic content that constitute most of the Tunisian blogosphere today.

Generally, the foreign participants at the conference had a somewhat sunnier vision of the future of Tunisia’s media, and for the role that digital and citizen journalism could play in that future.

Edwy Plenel gave a rousing speech about the potential for democracy to be a radical egalitarian system. He spoke of the liberating role of free information, particularly regarding the access people across the world have had to information via the Internet. He expressed hope that the way new media has been used in the country would promise a future of true, participatory democracy.

Addressing the Tunisian people, the veteran editor said, “You have begun an era of revolution, and it’s in Tunisia that the future of that era will play out.”

The event was organized by CFI, the l’Association Tunisienne des Libertés Numériques (ATLN),  l’Association de Multimédia et de l’Audiovisuel (AMAVI), and by Tunisia Live.

Reported by Farah Samti 

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Comments (2)

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  1. Great initiative and happy to see the effort made. The comment that facebook has become a platform for disinformation is an interesting one. Social media has never been subjected to the same ethical requirements as mainstream media. It is but a platform and one that gives voices to the many. If the many always said the “truth” wouldn’t the world be perfect. The revolution has its malcontents- but can we all agree that we are light years away from what we all suffered just a year ago. In that spirit we can move on . Peace Brother !!!

  2. francisco villa says:

    this is not a reply but it is about revolution, published here, it will have a bigger audience :

    À la veille de la révolution, il doit y avoir une insatisfaction générale sur le plan politique, économique et social affectant non pas un segment ou une classe de la population mais une large variété de classes sociales et de groupes sociaux. C’est le cas de la Tunisie aujourd’hui.

    Une autre pré-condition à la révolution est une politisation générale de la population. La politisation dans ce contexte veut dire non seulement être conscients que les conditions telles qu’elles existent doivent changer, et qu’un grand nombre de personnes partagent cette opinion, mais aussi une mobilisation générale où les personnes non intéressées ou qui ne se sentaient pas concernées veulent tout à coup faire partie du processus politique.

    Une pré-condition à la révolution est le fait qu’un nombre grandissant de personnes sont conscientes de l’ILLÉGITIMITÉ du gouvernement existant. Cette conscience de l’ILLÉGITIMITÉ du gouvernement reçoit une impulsion puissante lors du début du processus politique. Les griefs peuvent maintenant être exprimés ouvertement, et les aspects NÉGATIFS du régime existant peuvent être exposés d’une manière qui n’était pas possible auparavant.

    Une pré-condition qui peut transformer un soulèvement en une révolution est l’apparition d’une vraie alternative au régime en place.
    Les français avaient continué a réélire Chirac car ils ne voyaient pas d’alternative.
    Ou sont les alternatives tunisiennes ?
    Où sont les cerveaux tunisiens ? Ou plutôt ou est leur conscience ?
    C’est bien le moment pour que les « drainés » retournent au bercail.
    Les tunisiens ont besoin de personnes en qui ils puissent mettre leur confiance en toute sécurité. Lorsque les jeunes révoltés avaient peur du retour de l’ancien régime pourri, celui-ci leur a montré « patte blanche ». Tels que le loup, les anciens de l’RCD se sont déguisés et des tunisiens leur ont ouvert la porte. Ils ont ramenés les islamistes et se sont cachés derrière leurs voiles, ils ont même amené le ni9ab en Tunisie pour mieux se camoufler …

    ps : english version available

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