As political parties in Tunisia struggle to gain national relevance, their leaders and members are focused on effective communication strategies.
At the same time, journalists are learning their role in supporting a transparent government and educating the general population. Both developments open up an opportunity for the Global Center .
Joining forces with the National Democratic Institute, GCJD trainers Jim Arkedis and Chris Redman met with eight political parties in Tunis to help them understand how to work with the press, communicate with the public, and focus their agendas. "It was a pleasure for NDI Tunisia to work with the GCJD especially because of the Center's professionalism and flexibility, qualities that are both very needed when working in this region." said Wim Borremans, NDI's Senior Program Manager in Tunis.
The complexities facing the political parties in Tunisia were reflected in the individual consultation sessions the GCJD trainers facilitated. The sessions covered topics ranging from easing tensions with the media, to how to evolve from being a virtual party dependent on social media to a party with national and international credibility.
While there, GCJD trainers also had an opportunity to work with Tunisian reporters representing four press agencies. The focus of the discussions was to help journalists more fairly and thoroughly cover political parties, campaigns and elections.
The GCJD experts fielded questions and led discussion related to developing relationships with political parties, the role journalists play in voter education, and the roles of editors versus journalists.
By the end of the training the attendees compiled a list of actions they could take to strengthen their roles in Tunisian society, such as additional collaborations and trainings with international organizations, propagating the idea of journalism and citizen journalism in high schools, and defining the roles of chief editors to create a better communication pattern.
One of the most important discussions focused on the need for journalists to accept that they play an integral role in educating the public, and to do so in a fair, unbiased manner.
Says Arkedis of the experience, "I had a wonderful week in Tunis training journalists and political communications directors of all shapes, sizes, and ideologies. It's clear that multiparty democracy has a real chance to take root in Tunisia, but it's going to be a long, hard slog. Though the Tunisian press is freer than it's ever been, the country's journalists and parties are just figuring out how to effectively communicate what's going on during the transition. Success in that endeavor is the cornerstone of democracy, and that's why GCJD's work in Tunisia is so obviously crucial."
GCJD executive director Kelli Arena added that "This is an important time of transition in Tunisia. It's necessary to stay engaged."
The training was a mix of two important missions: Professional Journalist Training Programs and Enhancing Industry and Press Relations. GCJD will continue to collaborate with both NDI and willing program participants to develop additional programs as requested.
Global Center for Journalism and Democracy
Dan Rather Communications Building, Room 201, Huntsville, TX 77340
Phone: (936) 294-4399