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Pilot project on media accountability in Tunisia
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Pilot project on media accountability in Tunisia

 
Journalists met ombudsmen and media experts
Mediator between the audience and journalism
The pilot project "Ombudsmen in Tunisian media organizations" start after a three-day workshop in Tunis with its testing phase. The Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism at the Technical University of Dortmund (EBI, Dortmund) and Mena Media Monitoring (MMM, Tunis) had invited journalists from various Tunisian media outlets. The aim of the the workshop was to prepare the participants for their future work as ombudsmen in Tunisia. Thereby, EBI and MMM build up on the results of earlier projects such as a roundtable with about 20 representatives of Tunisian media in December 2014 and the EU research project MediaAcT.
The pilot project “Ombudsmen in Tunisia”, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Offic, aims to raise awareness in Tunisian media outlets to the concepts of media self-regulation and to introduce ombudsmen in newsrooms. The project is also supported by the Tunisian Haute Autorité de la communication indépendante audiovisual (HAICA), as during the workshop its chairman, Dr. Nouri Lajmi, underlined the necessity of ombudsmen for the Tunisian media landscape.
 
 
Intensive discussions on the role and tasks of ombudsmen
 
Several factors determine the success of ombudsmen
During three days media experts from Germany and the Arab region discussed about the role of ombudsmen and their tasks with the participants. Yavus Bayder (Turkey) and Irvan Süleyman (Cyprus), two former ombudsmen at Sabah Newspaper and respectively Yenidüzen Newspaper, stressed the importance of support for the ombudsperson inside the media outlet, which often is decisive for the success or failure of an ombudsman. This is not limited to a trusting relationship to the management and the media's owners. Another important factor is that "the editors believe in the idea of ombudsmen and support it," said Süleyman. Because in the end, it is the journalists who have to accept criticism of unprofessional journalistic practices. Points of discussion were the correct handling of secret documents or anonymous sources or the clear separation between editorial content and advertising.
 
 
Another focus was the question of how to deal with complaints or suggestions from the audience or from political actors in a professional way. Hedi Snoussi (ombudsman of Radio Mosaïque, Tunisia), Dr. Sadok Hammami (IPSI, Université de la Manouba, Tunisia) and Ines Drefs (University of Hamburg, Ruhr-Univerity Bochum, Germany) provided numerous examples from practice and research and discussed with the participants different mechanisms for professional complaint management.
 
Beginning of the testing phase
During the working sessions that had followed the intense discussions, the participants have developed guiding principles for their future work and designed first strategies to interact with their colleagues and members of the audience. Which of their defined objectives they actually were able to achieve during testing phase, will be the subject of a final conference by the end of 2015. Therefore, EBI and MMM will supervise the participants during the testing phase which starts in June 2015.

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