Press release 16 May 2018

The EU-funded MedMedia programme held its closing conference in Tunisia last week, kicking-off a round of events organised in the country on Europe Days.
Co-hosted by the Tunisian government, the Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens (SNJT) and the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), the event brought together some 60 participants from across the Southern Mediterranean on 8/9 May. It comprised a “Policy Makers Forum on Public Service Broadcasting”, held at Tunis’ Culture City on 8 May and a conference titled “Opportunities for Media Reform in the Southern Mediterranean”, organised at the ASBU’s headquarters the following day.

Welcoming participants, Patrice Bergamini, Ambassador of the European Union in Tunisia, expressed the EU’s commitment in support of media reform across the region saying: “MedMedia helped improve the capacity and quality of media in the region. In this sense, it has contributed to strengthening Euro-Arab relations. ”

Representing the Tunisian government, Iyed Dahmani, spokesperson and Minister in charge with relations with the Parliament, stressed in his opening remarks public media’s fundamental role in outlining the region’s cultural and social orientations and countering violence and extremism in society. “People need a free, honest and independent press with objectives and a sense of responsibility”, he said.

Also speaking at the opening, Younes Mjahed, Senior Vice-president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said: “Journalists and their unions in the region have been fighting to reform state media into public service media for many years. The fight for quality journalism and editorial independence is long and difficult but we are not shying from this struggle which we lead with many institutions and civil society organizations in the region.”

Andrea Cairola Adviser on Communication and Information at the UNESCO, expressed the UN body’s commitment to “supporting initiatives that advance media freedom and offer hope and a voice to younger generations in the region”.

The Policy Makers Forum, which gathered representatives of public media, journalists’ unions, national human rights institutions and media regulatory authorities in a nascent platform, discussed the need for an authentic and professional voice to lead the discussions on media reform in the region.

Launching the debate, MedMedia Team Leader Réal Barnabé said “MedMedia is privileged to host this important debate on public service broadcasting, an issue that has been at the heart of this four-year programme and our cooperation with key stakeholders in the region.”

Moderating the discussion, Néji Bghouri, SNJT President stressed: “reforming public media requires strong political commitments and concrete structural reform measures”.
Participants recommended to convene the Policy Makers Forum regularly, involving other actors including government representatives and parliamentarians, and task it with identifying the path for sustainable media development in the region.

The meeting reaffirmed the vital role public service media is expected to play in shaping the democratic future of the region and the importance to face the obstacles that undermine its ability to perform.

On Wednesday 9 May, the conference examined the programme’s key achievements, including the Initiative to establish a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the Arab World and the signature of its regional Declaration in six Arab states; the results of the vast and multi-layered Peer-to-Peer programme which covered various areas including digital transition, public service broadcasting and regulation and was jointly implemented with the ASBU and the Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audio-visual Operators (Copeam); Youth on Screen, an initiative to strengthen the participation of youth in broadcasting, and various other key actions aiming to strengthen education, gender equality and counter hate speech in the media.

The conference also outlined sustainability strategies for the programme and highlighted ongoing EU-supported media actions including Net-Med Youth, D-Jil, and the Open Media Hub, which aim respectively to strengthen young people’s participation in the media and public debate and promote networking and on-the-job training of media professionals across the European neighbourhood.

Concrete measures to support public service broadcasting in the short and medium terms were the focus of two working groups which discussed and reported in plenary the new challenges that lie ahead for the transformation of state broadcasters into public service broadcasters.

As the programme draws to an end, the MedMedia team and consortium members including BBC Media Action, the International Federation of Journalists, Irex Europe, Blanquerna School of Communications and the Jordan Media Institute, whish to thank the partners and the people on both shores of the Mediterranean for their contribution to the success of this programme and its lasting legacy for media reform in the Southern Mediterranean region.

Photo: Satellite dish and cirrus, Tunisia © Simon Blackley