Nawaat, a blog, provides a public platform for Tunisian dissident voices and debates on current events.
Freedom of expression is a growing concern in Tunisia, even after the revolution. The issue became even more important as the country drafted its new constitution. Two young Tunisians were given of long prison sentences because of Facebook posts, while the head of a Tunisian TV channel was fined after airing a movie that a court deemed blasphemous. Nawaat, founded in 2004 by an independent collective of Tunisian activists, wanted to make the public aware of the violations, prevent the further erosion of freedom of expression, and build support for a longer-term strategy of legal reform. The blog normally aggregates articles, visual media, and other data from a variety of sources to provide a forum for citizen journalists to express their opinions on current events. For the free speech issue, they decided to implement an intensive publicity campaign.
Nawaat used the power of narrative and visuals to communicate their message. They used four methods in particular to promote their views.
- Billboards in many Tunisian cities: A partnership was made with a known advertising agency to be a sponsor in the campaign and at the same time contribute billboards for the period of the campaign all over Tunisia at a very reduced cost.
- Inserts in national newspapers: A design was created that says in Arabic “The kind of newspapers that are only used to wrap stuff is long gone.” The accompanying picture was an image of a fish wrapped in a local newspaper. The message was visually strong and mocked the self-censorship and government censorship of the press.
- A poster distributed and hung at big political events, cultural and youth centers, streets and elsewhere: The poster consisted of a collage of thousands of tiny Twitter profile pictures of Tunisian youth that together comprised a photo of a young lady with a hand over her mouth. The visual message clearly drew attention to the censorship of online content, especially the social media that many youth use to express themselves.
- Video clips on YouTube and on national TV: Famous Tunisian directors and actors were recruited to contribute to the video clips. The message in the videos focused on the fact that the real treasure of Tunisia lies in the diverse ideas of its people.
Nawaat’s intervention campaign was especially timely because it occurred during the drafting of the new constitution. It was also successful in reaching a large number of people because it was a nation-wide effort and because it used striking visuals and the power of narrative to tell a story that their audience could identify with: that every Tunisian deserves freedom of speech and expression.
Such focused campaigning can influence public opinion and draw the attention of public figures, the media and writers who address the topic in their columns and TV shows, especially when the topic is general enough to be the concern of every citizen. It also serves as reminder to legislators and politicians that there are people who are observing and won’t allow such violations to go unnoticed.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/nawaat
This tactic can be used as short-term tactic or part of a long-term strategy to advance a certain human right or freedom. The need for this tactic can emerge as a rapid response to recent or impending violations of rights, or as a proactive measure to pave the way in the political environment to promote legal reform or a certain policy that will affect the human right. Limiting the time of the campaign and focusing on different visual tools will help convey the message to different segments of the target group and consequently a larger audience.