Tunisia signs the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi today became the second head of state to sign the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World.

The declaration – which was also backed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this month - wassigned during a meeting with a delegation representing the IFJ and Tunisian unions SNJT, UGTT and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO in Tunis on 26 August.

President Essebsi assured the delegation of his commitment to support media freedom and independence and to consult with the representatives of journalists over media reforms.

The official signing was followed by a national meeting of more than 150 participants representing media organisations, editors, trade unions, national commissions and institutions and journalists who also signed the declaration.

The Declaration was also signed by heads of all parliamentary groups the previous day.

Neji Bghouri, SNJT president and IFJ executive committee member said: “This is a historic day for press freedom in Tunis and the region. Today we have agreed clear guidelines for reforming the Tunisian media. It will serve as a guide to the government due to be sworn in today and the parliament when they start the process of passing the media legislation, especially reforming public service media and the law on the higher independent commission of the regulation of the audio visual sector”.

Monir Zaarour, IFJ coordinator for the Arab World who attended the signing said: “Today will be remembered as the turning point for media freedom in Tunisia and the Arab World. It is a recognition that press freedom and independent journalism is not only a force for public good, it is also a public good itself. Signing the declaration today will pave the way for the establishment of a regional mechanism to support media freedom in the Arab world that is truly independent from government control with the Declaration at its heart”.

The Declaration - a clear commitment to the principles of media freedom, independent journalism and the right to information - was adopted at a meeting hosted by the International Federation of Journalists and the Moroccan journalists union (SNPM) in Casablanca in May 2016 and supported by numerous institutions including UNESCO, the government of Norway, the FES, Union to Union and EU-funded MedMedia programme.

It is the first step to establishing a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the region to uphold the principles contained in the Declaration.

Supported by hundreds of representatives of journalists unions, broadcasters, human rights organisations and press freedom groups it sets out 16 key principles to achieve the highest international standards of media freedom and protect and enhance journalists’ rights.

Among the principles in the Declaration are those covering:

 Freedom of expression

 Freedom of information

 Journalists safety

 Media law reform

 Self-regulation

 Equality

 Hate speech and intolerance

 Independence of public service broadcasters

The declaration - the culmination of a 20-month process of consultation with technical experts and media stakeholders - called on all journalists unions, press freedom organisations, editors, media, human rights and civil society groups to back the declaration. It also called on all governments and inter-governmental organisations in the region to sign up to the Declaration and commit to practical methods to establish and enforce an independent mechanism for media freedom.

See all the photographs from the event here.

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