Tunisian blogger reflects on the Jasmine Revolution
This year’s winning blogger is Lina Ben Mhenni. The 27 year old university lecturer’s blog A Tunisian Girl was recognised for: “writing bravely about repression and censorship in Tunisia long before the international media descended on the country during the tumultuous events of December 2010 and January 2011.”
Freelance DW-Akademie trainer, Sarah Mersch, spoke with Lina and asked her about the Jasmine Revolution and what changes she is now seeing in Tunisia’s media.
In light of new found freedoms are the media and journalists in Tunisia fulfilling their roles and responsibilities?
Even if the media are free now, I have the impression that fundamentally nothing has changed. Journalists still work the same way. It’s the same journalists who already worked under Ben Ali and spread propaganda, and they continue to work as they did before, except that the instructions they get from their superiors are different now. But the way they work has remained the same.
Are international media, such as BBC, Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle an alternative?
Yes, of course. I try to watch various international channels. Shortly after the beginning of the revolution in January, I also watched Tunisian channels, I was even a guest in some of these programmes. But I’m not really interested, because nothing has really changed. I prefer the international news channels to the Tunisian ones, as they are much more credible, transparent and neutral.
Was the revolution in Tunisia in your opinion a “Facebook-revolution”, as it’s been so often described?
The internet has played a role. It has accelerated the development and made sure the topic was covered, especially because traditional media didn’t pay any attention. In addition it was important to mobilize people for demonstrations, for example. But it is exaggerated, to speak of an internet revolution. Had there only been the internet, we would have never reached our goal. There were people who lost their lives, people who were injured. Those were much greater sacrifices than we what did as internet activists.
How do you see in this context the possibilities for social media, blogs and citizen journalists?
We now have a problem, because everyone has understood what power social networks and the internet can have. This is being taken advantage of. There is a lot of false information being circulated. We have to be very careful and pay attention to what information and sources we trust.
You were for a long time one of the few who stood openly against the regime of Ben Ali without using a pseudonym. Do you feel an appreciation for your commitment?
I’ve never done that for the sake of recognition, but for my country. When I started writing, I did so to express myself. Over time it developed more and more into activism, or I should say cyber-activism. Of course there are many who support me, but there are almost as many who disregard me.
How will you continue to work personally?
I’ll continue as I did before. If I go somewhere in Tunisia and report, because there is something wrong, then I’ll do that without hesitating. If I want to criticise a political party and their positions, I’ll do it openly.
Are you now no longer afraid because of your activism?
Of course I was afraid until the regime fell in January, as anyone would have in this situation. But in light of the injustices in this country, I was able to conquer this fear. To see the suffering of others has led me to forget my own fear. Now, however, it is rather worse. Previously it was clear – the threat came from Ben Ali and the political police. Nowadays it’s no longer clear who is the enemy, the threat may come from all directions. This has increased the fear again.
Elections have been called for the Constituent Assembly. Is the country on the right track?
It is difficult to assess the situation now. Of course there is a certain amount of chaos, but this is completely normal, after all it was a spontaneous revolution. No one had an idea how the transitional government could look like. After the elections, I think it will be time to draw initial conclusions. But I’m optimistic because the young people have played an important role. And now we are vigilant and will try to protect the fruits of the revolution.
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Photo: Sarah Mersch