In December 2019, members of Tunisia’s civil society attended an EED Panel discussion entitled “An evolving role for Civil Society within Tunisia’s new political reality?” to discuss perspectives for change in Tunisia and the potential role of civil society in this new post-election period. Speakers included Nesrine Jelalia, Executive Director of Al Bawsala, a leading Tunisian watchdog; Ramy Khouili, doctor and human rights activists and Director of Operations of Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD), and Thameur Mekki, Nawaat Chief Editor and an independent journalist publishing investigative stories focusing on media.
Jelalia, whose organisation is engaged as a watchdog of parliament, local authorities and public finances, noted shortcomings in the reform agenda of the previous political institutions and stated that this had a profound effect on the electoral process and the political future in the country.
Mekki noted that Nabil Karoui’s stake in the media is an example for the opaque media ownership and finance in Tunisia and the dominant use of the media as a political and economic tool. He also noted the dominance of social media such as Facebook in the way people access news and the effect that algorithms within these social media have on what people read and what opinions they encounter. Mekki explained the public’s dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and practices, and noted that this was clearly demonstrated by the low parliamentary election turnout and the election of Kais Said, a constitutional law professor regarded as a person with integrity and an outsider to the political landscape.
Moderating the discussion Rosamaria Gili, Head of the Maghreb division at the European External Action Service (EEAS) noted that since the Jasmine Revolution in 2010-11, the political reality in Tunisia has dramatically changed in Tunisia. She reiterated the EU’s strong commitment to support democratic transition in Tunisia.