Journalism and health

11. Dorra Ben Abdelkader, health journalism in Tunisia /

Anywhere ‎through the world when it ‎comes to health in Africa, we ‎always have a pessimistic view ‎of health conditions (setbacks and deaths). The ‎world is concerned with Africa ‎only when it is bleeding. ‎However, Africa is a continent ‎full of initiatives. Africa is not ‎just a continent of suffering, it’s a ‎continent of initiative, ‎creativity and invention.

Dorra Ben Abdelkader – Journalist – Tunis Afrique Presse Agency – Tunisia

I’m Dorra Ben AbdelKader a ‎journalist from Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), I cover news about the health ‎sector, women’s rights, and the prevention of violence against ‎women and children.‎

In 2017, the Tunisian government adopted Law 58 which criminalizes violence against women.

A historic law passed unanimously by the Assembly of the Representatives of the People.

Dorra Ben Abdelkader – Journalist – Tunis Afrique Presse Agency – Tunisia

In my last investigation, I wanted to know how this law could be applied in the field and what gaps could be filled in order to ensure and protect the rights of the victim, especially for women victims of psychological, verbal and economic violence.

When lockdown was imposed in Tunisia with the arrival of the Covid-19 epidemic, the number of cases of violence against women rocketed, sometimes making it difficult to gather victims’ testimonies.

Dorra Ben Abdelkader – Journalist – Tunis Afrique Presse Agency – Tunisia

I turned to civil society including active associations that have a comprehensive programme on violence against women. These associations give me the opportunity to meet and talk with these women. There are also officials in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Health who collect living testimonies, and testimonies from women victims of violence. As a journalist, I obviously have a right of reserve, and the right not to reveal the identity of these women out of respect for the laws on their personal data. This is how I met them and collected their living testimonies and their suffering, without revealing their identity, and respecting their dignity. It is not easy to convince a victim to testify. I must be able to convince and reassure them that their personal data will not be revealed. And that the work I do is journalistic work to shed light on her rights as a woman and a victim, and to bring her voice to society so that we, as a society and I as a journalist, can expose the truth and reveal the weaknesses of the law or of certain procedures. 

Since Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in 2011, the country has ushered in a reform process that consists in overhauling the media called upon to modernize.

Dorra Ben Abdelkader – Journalist – Tunis Afrique Presse Agency – Tunisia

Nowadays, journalists must not limit their source to the communications and reports issued by hospital structures or by official structures such as the Ministry of Health and the government. They must go further to find out what is behind these figures and published reports. In Tunisia, we are taking a very important step in this direction. The Tunisian journalist is not satisfied with just receiving the press releases and recording the figures, but is seeking to go further.

Despite the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, Africa has innovated in terms of health, even in a crisis situation.

Dorra Ben Abdelkader – Journalist – Tunis Afrique Presse Agency – Tunisia

As for the health sector in the Arab world and on the African continent, I see from my position as a journalist that young people of the Arab world abound in ideas, creativity, competitiveness, love and passion for knowledge, and this allows us to be optimistic about the future in the health sector, particularly in terms of technology and innovation. However, and I repeat, there is a lack of basic facilities and financial resources, especially to embrace these young people and enable them to fulfil their dreams, their goals, their will to create and innovate.

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