mardi 8 novembre 2011

Tunisia-live.net, the media reference in Tunisia



In Tunisia, before January 2011, media was greatly influenced by the dictatorship. Whether it was television, radio, newspapers or the Internet, everyone was under surveillance and dissidence wasn’t tolerated. Things are different now and the media is gradually adapting to the new situation, but much still has to be done to overcome the population’s scepticism. However, not all media outlets existed before the dictatorship. Indeed, soon after the uprising that brought about Ben Ali’s departure, new sources of information appeared.

An English website called Tunisia-live.net was created in March 2011 by three young Tunisian graduates of American universities. It might appear surprising since English is the third most popular language in Tunisia and only a small minority of citizens speak it fluently.

Zied Mhirsi, co-founder of Tunisia-live.net.
But for Zied Mhirsi, co-founder of the online paper, “there is a niche market for news about Tunisia in English since few reliable media groups offer it”. He also considers it an excellent way to offer Tunisia more visibility internationally. As he mentioned when met at his office located at Berges du Lac 2 in Tunis, “today, English is the language of business and communications in the world. Therefore publishing in English is a very good way of making Tunisia better known and contributing to its development”.


The journal’s exploits

In the beginning, the project all started with M. Mhirsi and his two colleagues Ramla Jaber and Youssef Gaigi. The three co-founders, who gained more notoriety during the Revolution, have very impressive résumés. Ms. Jaber worked for international channels such as CBS and CNN, and also held a direction position in an NGO of the United Nations in New York. As for Mr. Gaigi, recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, he is the Tunis producer of Al Jazeera International News since January 2011. Holding a MBA from Boston University, he founded in 2003 a student exchange program between the U.S. and the Arab world.

Mr. Mhirsi, a medical doctor and host of a weekly radio show on Express FM, a well-known station in Tunisia, published one of the most popular blogs in the country for more than six years. Following the January 2011 uprising, he collaborated with CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera English and other influential media stations in addition to being interviewed on the celebrated 60 Minutes television show presented on CBS in which he discussed the role played by social networks in the Revolution and the future of Tunisia (Mr. Mhirsi’s intervention begins at 2:55).



Tunisia-live.net stands out among its competitors in numerous ways. The staff is young (under 35) and dynamic, and the quality of the articles and the videos published is greater than the vast majority, if not all the country’s media. This is demonstrated by Google’s decision to associate themselves with them during the past electoral campaign by launching a special network on YouTube called Tunisia Talks, a similar concept than the one used the 2008 American presidential election where candidates were invited to answer questions from the public.

Also worth mentioning is that from October 23rd, day of the election, to the 27th, Tunisia-live.net offered an exceptional live coverage of the results of the voting from the Independent High Authority for the Elections’ (ISIE) press center. No other online media presented such complete and punctual coverage.


The future of Tunisia-live.net

Allan Bradley, Editor-in-Chief of 
Tunisia-live.net.
In their offices, one can feel the high energy level generated by the young journalists. Between the reports and interviews they conduct in the field, they gather around a few tables with their laptops and work side-by-side 12 hours a day to write their articles. Having mostly studied abroad, certain members of the team have won prestigious academic scholarships. In addition, the Editor-in-Chief, Allan Bradley, graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a BA in history.

With the precarious economic situation in Tunisia, the Internet journal doesn’t have considerable financial means. The principal source of revenue comes from «fixing» services offered to major media outlets from around the world. More precisely, when other media come to Tunisia, Tunisia-live.net employees help them obtain the media accreditation passes, find hotels and transportation, guarantee their security and provide them with technical equipment if necessary.

Tunisia-live.net is one of the rare Tunisian media outlets that doesn’t benefit from private investment or sponsorship. Management is aware that «fixing» revenues will dry up eventually now that the election has occurred and that most major news correspondents have left the country. “In the coming months we will work hard at finding sponsors. With Tunisia-live.net’s potential and its talented group of journalists, we’re confident we will succeed”, stated Mr. Mhirsi, visibly proud of the company he co-founded.

With so many assets, it is safe to bet that the website has what it takes to reach its goals and impose itself even more as a leader in Tunisian media for years to come. Assuredly, if it continues publishing at such a high level of journalistic excellence, there is no reason to doubt that it will keep growing not only in Tunisia but also internationally.

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