Training Security Forces on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists

Since the Revolution of 11 January 2011, UNESCO has accompanied the democratic transition process in Tunisia, in particular in the field of freedom of expression and press freedom. Working with the Ministry of the Interior and the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), UNESCO notably established the project “Training Security Forces on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists.”

The project aims to build the capacity of security forces to uphold citizens’ enjoyment of the right of freedom of expression and information by improving journalist safety. Its goal is to establish more professional relations between security forces and journalists conducive to a better environment for freedom of expression for all citizens. The project comprises the training of security forces to help them understand the role and function of journalists in democratic societies and to ensure the safety of journalists, including media workers and social media producers.

Since 2013, more than 260 Tunisian law enforcement officers received this training. Furthermore, 90 journalists have participated in joint training sessions with security forces that helped reduce tensions and incidents between these two groups. Moreover, some 1,125 members of the security forces have participated in awareness-raising sessions with UNESCO trainers.

A training manual, Freedom of Expression and Public Order, was produced and is available in Arabic, English and French. The manual shows that public order need not come at the expense of freedom of expression and journalists’ safety.

In Tunisia, this training has become part of the in-service curriculum of National Guard academies. Law enforcement officers of the National Guard are now receiving a 20-hour course on freedom of expression, safety of journalists and relations with media. As a result of the project, the Ministry of the Interior and the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) established common training on safety of journalists, focal points and protocol of communication between them.

According to NGOs defending freedom of expression, the project helped reduce tensions between security forces and journalists and improved understanding between them, notably in the ten regions of Tunisia where training was provided. However, there is a need to maintain the efforts in security forces training on these issues.

These results contribute to improving freedom of expression, press freedom and the rule of law. A free, independent and pluralistic media, working in safe conditions, is an essential element to ensure the free flow of information through and between communities.

The project, which aims to support the reform of security institutions and democratic transition in Tunisia, received the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a contribution of the Kingdom of Sweden, the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Finland.

Since 2013, UNESCO and its partners have initiated trainings for security forces in Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Iraq and Tanzania, and more.