In the context of democratic transitions, media are known for being a key influential factor for political change, contributing at building solid democratic roots as much as the adoption of a new Constitution, the instauration of transitional justice, elections holding, or political elites renewal. Many works dedicated to the role of media in transitional processes aim at analysing their contribution to democratisation building. These roles are evaluated through the normative functions that – in fact or in theory – we ascribe them in democratic systems. Thus, media are expected to perform a “watchdog” role by controlling governmental actions, or acting so as to enforce elites’ accountability. It is also essential that they participate to the holding of pluralistic debates regarding public issues, which should lead to the emergence of new opportunities of dialogue between antagonistic opinions in the public space. Media should also foster and promote a civic culture and values in line with democratic principles.
Scholars often mobilized these functions enabling them to target what misguides the media transition, or curbs it. This eventually leads to the evaluation of media’s contribution in the evolution phase from an autocratic system towards the State of Law. To fulfil these functions, media should have already committed themselves to reform processes for which they are both the object (e.g.: Law reforms, international aid programs, etc.) and the agents (internal restructuration, new professional practices, etc.). However, these reforms conflict with the on-going heritage of the former regime, and against the backdrop of structural uncertainties concerning professional legitimacies and symbolic representations. IRMC international conference aims at questioning the conditions and the logics of Tunisian media’s evolution during the transitional process. They can be analysed through four essential dimensions of modern media systems, as defined by Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini
Namely, these dimensions are
1) the degree and nature of State intervention in the field of media;
2) “Political Parallelism”, i.e. the degrees of autonomy and interdependence between political spheres and media staff;
3) the restructuration of media markets;
4) the (re)professionalization of journalists.
These four dimensions have been designed for the study of media systems evolving in stabilized politico-institutional environments. The goal of this conference is to resort to these dimensions – each of them being dedicated to a specific panel – and to question through them the Tunisian media transition. Participants are invited to contribute to these panels by problematizing their object in terms of breaches and continuities and, if possible, foreseeing the consequences that conflicts between new legitimacies and older ones could have on the
evolution of the Tunisian media field.
*The degree and nature of State intervention in the Tunisian field of media*
Under the rule of Zine al-‘Abidin Ben Ali, the media field was submitted to the wishes and desires of the ruling elite. Its development was contingent upon its members’ economic predations, and upon the State propaganda’s outlines. With the transition, the Tunisian State is expected to play a new role in arbitrating and regulating the media sector. The objective of this panel is to analyse the conditions and practicalities of the regime change, and the logics surrounding the reconfiguration of the media field. What is at stake is the definition of the right place that the State should hold, and the degree and nature of its intervention in the media system, particularly in the fields of Legislation (Press Code, adjustments in the Penal Code), professional framework (regulation authorities, Unions, etc.), or information production (national radios and newspapers, State news agency, national T.V.)
What political choices have been made in Tunisia in order to clarify the relationships between political factions, economic forces, and the media? What orientations have been adopted for the regulation of the sector? On which ideological references have been founded the post-2011 public policies in the media sector? Which reforms have been adopted to come up with an information system which is definitely oriented towards the public? And according to which definition of the public service?
*Political Parallelism”: autonomies and interdependences between media sector and political spheres*
Borrowing the expression of “political parallelism” from Hallin and Mancini, this panel aims at questioning the autonomy of the media vis-à-vis political spheres, as well as their interdependence relationships. Analysing these relationships implies identifying the different orientations taken by Tunisian journalism and the role it has been fulfilling under the successive regimes and counter-powers. This can notably be reached by producing the epistemic model of journalistic practices and ideals.
What have been the main journalistic traditions in Tunisia, from independence to the 2011 revolutionary movement? How, through its evolution, has the Tunisian media system incorporated conflicting political loyalties? What are the new journalistic models appearing after January 14^th 2011, due to the emergence of post-revolutionary legitimacies?
With former regime’s fall, emergent or resurgent political actors have been able to confront their views in the media public sphere. While acknowledging the readjustment of the Tunisian political scene, this panel aims at exploring the relationships existing between newcomers and Tunisian media. What are the connections observable between media and political parties and where do they stem from? Have distanciation processes of journalists and political actors been unfolding after the so-called “revolution”? **
*The structure of Tunisian media market*
In the context of recurrent tumultuous controversies and the disappearance of media control apparatus, new media outlets, radio stations, and T.V. channels have been created. Thus, new actors have seized the opportunity to invest on the media market. Some of them have disappeared, as they were unable to find their audience, or to create a sustainable economic model. On the basis of this assessment, this panel aims at questioning the effects and opportunities of post-revolutionary dynamics in the structuration of this market. To which extent can we assess market restructuration in this field? By which political and egislative means did new media emerge? Which audiences have they targeted? How to analyse the sustainability of some operators and the disappearance of others?
Transitions towards democracy also go along with the renewing of relationships between media and their public. Indeed, some characteristic features about audiences have been either ignored or prohibited by censorship and propaganda system under the former regime. In the case of Tunisia, to what extent can we attest of a genuine reorientation of media industries in their audience relationships? Can the evolution of the audience-rating market in Tunisia be seen as an effect of the transitional context? And how does this evolution condition a new relationship with audiences?
*(Re)professionalization of the Tunisian journalism*
The question of journalistic (re)professionalization is highly relevant in a transitional context, considering the control imposed on this sector of activity under former regime. In the case of Tunisia, controlling journalists has contributed fostering practices which have to come to an end. This rupture unfolds on the backdrop of a crisis hitting professional representations; a crisis through which actors are confronting by mobilizing new norms and new legitimacies. How does this imperative of rupture occur in practice? What are the models of “good journalism” that are now valued by Tunisian journalists? Which norms and standards have been imported to Tunisia, notably through the international media assistance? To which extent are they consistent with the Tunisian realities? Have these norms and standards been subjected to local adaptations or have they been fully rejected?
With the regime change and the liberalization of the media sector, new media called either “citizen media” or “alternative media” have emerged in Tunisia, especially in the areas where the press has been purposefully underdeveloped. How did “authorized” upholders of Tunisian journalism behave towards these newcomers? Did they adopt strategies to lock up the journalists’ professional territory? Or did they integrate them as new competences that could strenghten the journalistic profession? In other words, have these new margins been included to the profession’s fields of competence, or not?
Proposals in *Political sciences, Media studies, Sociology, Law studies, History, Anthropology*, are expected by *April, 20^th 2015*, either in English, French, or Arabic (4000 characters).
Proposals should be emailed to the two following email addresses: