Tunisia: Young people find their voice through the radio | Middle East/North Africa | DW | 09.01.2018
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Middle East/North Africa

Tunisia: Young people find their voice through the radio

Young people in Tunisia create their own shows, thereby telling stories that commercial and state stations do not dare broadcast. Here is a look a some brave young media makers.

Tunesien DW Akademie Jugendradios

Teamwork is essential at the web radio stations.

"I'll never forget how the 15-year-old host interviewed the mayor. She asked him directly, "Where is the money? There were 4 million dinars, but the architect said that he only received 2 million. Where's the rest of the money? She was not at all shy." The young presenter's courage impressed Khalid El Kaoutit.

Maktar is a small town in the northern Tunisian mountains. For years, the residents have been complaining about an unsecured street that is apparently under construction, but no progress has been made. Millions of dinars have probably been siphoned off in corrupt transactions, but hardly anyone dares to confront those responsible for the project. The people who work at the local youth radio station are different. They have simply taken the problem and made it the subject of a program. Khalid El Kaoutit says he did not enjoy such liberties when he growing up in Morocco. "It goes without saying that young people here ask uncomfortable questions."

The spirit of revolution: no fear of critical questions

El Kaoutit is a coach. He helps young develop their own radio programs. He deliberately says "coach" and not "trainer." He explains, "To me, training means I teach a workshop with one goal - for example, I teach students how to create a news report. But as a coach, I look even more closely at needs and how to organize the events on site."

He coaches six youth radio stations throughout the country. These radio station are part of the state youth center system. There are already 24 such web radio stations; the youth ministry wants to set up another 24 in 2018.

Tunesien DW Akademie Jugendradios

"In the beginning, there was creative chaos", says El Kaoutit.

The "Media and Information Literacy" (MIL) project is carried out with the cooperation of the Tunisian Ministry of Youth. It aims to increase young people's media literacy. They must learn how to use media critically and to become active themselves and offer more than just quick Facebook posts.

The Arab Spring started in Tunisia and the process of democratization has progressed there the most. Ensuring that young people have a say is essential; it is something unusual in forgotten places like Maktar, where there is a complete lack of prospects for young people. 

The first coaching session took place in October 2017. Together with the Tunisian technician Mohamed Hosni Bel Lakhel, Khalid El Kaoutit traveled throughout the country from one structurally weak rural region to the next. "While I drove across the country, I sometimes I thought, 'God created these people and then forgot them here.' It is depressing to see how little infrastructure there is for the people. There's no work; there’s nothing to do here. The regions are desolate. The young people's radio stations are like little oases. They're lively. There, teens and young adults work constructively and shape their home region."

Creative chaos on air

As a coach, he gives young people as few guidelines as possible for their radio broadcasts. Nevertheless, there are two he insists on. In every show, at least one voice that does not belong to the editorial team has to be heard, for example, in interviews on the street or vox pops. Moreover, the team has to post a question on Facebook before each show and read the responses during the show. One month after his first trip, El Kaoutit returned to Tunisia in November 2017 to meet the young media makers again.

Tunesien DW Akademie Jugendradios

Fostering the spontaneity and enthusiasm of the young people is one goal of the training.

A lot has changed since his first visit. "In the beginning, there was creative chaos and everything happened live, once with 13 people in the studio. If anyone thought of something, he or she simply spoke into the microphone without knowing whether it was even switched on," says El Kaoutit. That has changed. Now, only technicians are allowed behind the mixing console, and in the studio, there only as many people as there are microphones.

Also, the young people now have a rough broadcasting schedule and know who does what and when. "These rules make it easier for them to produce, but they should also make it easier for the audience to listen," says El Kaoutit. As a coach, he feels like he is caught in the middle. He doesn't want to lose the spontaneity and enthusiasm of the young people, but on the other hand, he has to help them to produce radio quality radio shows. "Young people should not be held back too much by the rules," says El Kaoutit.

Tunesien DW Akademie Jugendradios

The young people hardly remember the time before the revolution in 2011.

After all, it was  the motivation and impartiality of the young people that impressed El Kaoutit the most. Older people have often suggested that some subjects should be taboo, such as sexuality, politics and religion. But the young people do not always comply with their wishes. El Kaotutit believes that this has to do with the fact that they hardly remember the time before the revolution in 2011. "They were children then. The freedom and chaos that have emerged since the revolution are normal for them. They are not familiar with the authoritarian mentality of the past. This is a huge opportunity."


The project "Eyes open! Tunisia's youth uses the Internet critically" is funded by the German Foreign Office. It will be continued in 2018 and expanded to include Morocco. Contact person: Bernd Rößle (DW Akademie's regional coordinator for North Africa), Vera Möller-Holtkamp (project manager).

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