How do journalists in the Middle East cope with political pressure? (NUPI, Norway)

All over the world, media-owners and lobbyists use journalists and the media as political tools for their own ends. How do journalists cope with this? A NUPI project has examined this issue in Tunisia and Lebanon.

‘Journalists are vulnerable to pressure from politicians and business lobbies. In countries with strong democratic institutions, solid economies and firmly-established professional norms, journalists stand stronger – but in Tunisia and Lebanon they must fight hard for their freedom, livelihoods and the truth. The counter-forces are strong, explains Kjetil Selvik, Senior Research Fellow at NUPI.

Together with colleagues he has studied the political role of journalism in Tunisia and Lebanon, the two freest Arab countries, through the research project ‘Journalism in struggles for democracy: media and polarization in the Middle East’.

‘In April this year we saw an example of Tunisian journalists resisting political control. A large number of media professionals took to the streets because Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appointed Ben Younes chief executive of the Tunisian news agency Tunis Africa Presse (TAP). The protesters saw Younes as being too close to the political party Ennahda,’ says Selvik.

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