Tunisian media discuss transitional justice
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 27/03/12
Tunisian journalists are working to meet the challenges of covering issues of transitional justice by participating in training sessions to develop their ability to provide credible reports.
Media and transitional justice were the focus of a workshop held March 16th in Tunis at the initiative of the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) with the participation of National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT).
Salma Jlassi, member of the SNJT executive office, told Magharebia that the syndicate partnered with ICTJ "in order to develop journalists' capacities for active participation in establishing the principles of transitional justice".
"[As for] the three parties involved in establishing justice, in addition to the judiciary and security, it is important to train journalists to develop their abilities to complete this mission successfully and professionally," she said.
She explained that journalists had three tasks in fostering transitional justice. "They are, first, awareness of the importance of transitional justice, its concepts and stages; secondly, how to deal with the criminal procedures carried out as part of uncovering the truth; and finally, avoiding bias toward the torturer or victim or supporting both," Jlassi said.
"Journalists must establish proof in dealing with news sources and witnesses," she continued.
Rim El-Gantri, head of the Tunisia programme at ICTJ, told Magharebia that the media play a vital role in the success or failure of transitional justice initiatives.
"The media in Tunisia today plays an important role to deliver information to the public, as they had training opportunities and access to information making it possible to influence public policy on issues of justice," El-Gantri added.
Regarding the most important goals of this workshop, El-Gantri said the event aimed to "provide tools and models related to transitional justice to journalists in a society going through a period of democratic transition by building their skills".
The journalists present received lessons and models presented by reporters from France and South Africa.
Farah Shandol, a journalist at Radio Tataouine in southern Tunisia, said reporters at her station used to come under a lot of pressure during coverage of events on the border during the Libyan revolution.
"We received much news, but we are constantly under either military pressure or from within radio management to not pass it on so as to safeguard public security," she added. "We found ourselves at a loss, between presenting this news or concealing it for fear of spreading sedition or anarchy."
Dr Wahid Ferchichi, an expert with ICTJ and public law professor, told attendees there must be national dialogue as part of process.
"Even though almost more than a year has passed since the revolution, no national dialogue on transitional justice has been held under official public supervision," Ferchichi said. "Some components of civil society have tried to overcome this gap by organising major meetings and seminars inviting all actors in matters related to transitional justice, but they have not led to adoption of the course of this justice due to the absence of political will."
He added that the way was open for "legal approval and tasking a competent ministry with organising this national dialogue for the path of transitional justice to be participatory and consultative, established to promote awareness, empowerment and models facilitating political decision".
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