Tunisian writers form syndicate
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 13/07/10
Authors from across Tunisia have formed a syndicate to spotlight work-related issues such as freedom of speech and access to jobs and health care.
Before the Syndicate of Tunisian Writers' founding, the Writers Union was the only body representing the country's authors.
"We're not competing with the Writers Union; our goal is to protect the rights of writers, who are suffering from marginalisation and exploitation," said the syndicate officer responsible for health and occupational issues, Fatima Cherif.
"We have dozens of writers who can't afford the most basic living conditions," added Cherif. Following its first meeting on Thursday (July 8th), the syndicate listed several demands for the Ministry of Culture, including employment for jobless university graduates in the field, free entry to cultural events and low-cost medical care.
The syndicate was established on July 4th, following a conference to elect officers, and will work under the auspices of the Tunisian General Union of Workers.
Freedom of publication and creativity, as well as the right to social security, employment and full-time writing, topped the concerns of members who took part in the body's electoral conference.
"Maybe the members of the governing body of the Writers Union didn't notice that the conference was the last chance for false promises and needless waiting," Cherif said.
"On top of the build-up of the writers' social and literary issues, the promises accumulated and the waiting increased, which caused more despair and frustration for writers", she added.
Mohamed Hedi Jaziri, a member of the Writers Union management team, said in a statement to Magharebia that he did not want to comment on the syndicate's creation. However, his statement ponders whether the union was truly unable to meet the writers' needs.
"We all want to gain rights for authors, but before that, we have to determine who is a writer," he wrote. "We in the union have been suffering from a heavy legacy for more than two decades."
"[W]e're trying to change attitudes, but we haven't yet achieved our goals, and we can't work miracles, because we're not gods", he added.
Now that the founding moment is past, the new group is moving forward on several fronts.
"The syndicate will work to ensure the restructuring and organising of the institutions of writing and authoring, and will work hard to protect its member' rights in relation to the media, advertising and productive organisations, and the role of publishing, distribution and translation", the new body's head of media and publishing, Adel Maizi, told Magharebia.
However, not all Tunisians contacted by Magharebia were convinced that the syndicate would be the answer to writers' concerns.
"I think the idea of an syndicate for writers is a vague one, even though its initiators, or some of them, have good intentions," said Samir Ben Ali, a literary critic, who called Tunisia's publishing sector "fragile".
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