Tunisian Americans Express Hopes Via New Media Climate

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http://www.america.gov/st/democracyhr-english/2011/March/20110316132605m0.9530451.html?CP.rss=true

Washington — As Tunisian Americans watch events unfold in their homeland, they are not sitting idle. Two months after the Tunisian revolution swept longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, they are using new and traditional media tools to help Tunisia move forward.


Douja Mamelouk, an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University in Washington,said a free press has been emerging since the revolution. Private television stations Hannibal TV and Nessma TV have been bold in their choice of programming since December 2010 and continue to provide forums for people to air their views.


“As a lot of people in Tunisia have been saying, if you have an opinion, we now have a free press, [so] please submit your opinion in the open,” Mamelouk said. “It seems like after everyone lived [in] silence for 50 years, now no one is being quiet.”



A free press in Tunisia presents opportunities for Tunisian Americans to add their voice to the debate. “Tunisian Americans can play a role in the sense that they can voice their own opinions … in the sense that saying what is necessary, what is it that we wish to see happen in Tunisia,” Mamelouk said.


Hedi Jaouad, a French-language and literature professor at Skidmore College in New York, agreed that Tunisian Americans should use the media.


“Sometimes it is useful to have somebody … give an objective point of view from distance,” Jaouad said.


Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, important for organizing the uprising against Ben Ali’s government, continue to connect people. “On Facebook we’ve been having constant debates. The debate hasn’t stopped from pre-revolution Tunisia, [and] we have been discussing issues,” Mamelouk said.


Mamelouk said the country needs businesses and public services back on track.
“I have been in touch and contact with some Tunisians and they are saying that we need to have stability to go back to work,” Mamelouk said. “And there has been a lot of damage done and a lot of public places that have been burnt, students have not been able to have a normal school year, etc.”


Mokhtar Sadok, an aerospace scientist in Iowa, said Tunisian Americans can play a vital role to create new economic opportunities.
“Tunisian Americans can help strengthen economic and cultural ties between both countries by encouraging the start of new businesses that can create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic,” Sadok said.


Despite the challenges facing Tunisia, Tunisian Americans say the country is headed in the right direction as a new government is planned.
“I know that definitely the people who are in charge of the constitution … are extremely professional and they know their job well,” Mamelouk said. “I am confident in the kind of people who are going to be in charge.”


Meanwhile, Jaouad will contact his elected officials in America to express his views on the situation in Tunisia.


“I am planning to write to my representatives here and ask them to either go there or urge the government to support Tunisia,” Jaouad said. “You want to bring the economy back to where it was and then make it much better.”


Jaouad plans to take an active role to help Tunisians form a new government. If the provisional government seeks election monitors, Jaouad will be available.


“I want to personally volunteer to be an international election observer,” Jaouad said. “I think that would be helpful if Tunisian Americans were to be part of international teams so that the elections can be conducted in free and nonthreatening circumstances.”
 
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