Ahead of Tunisia’s municipal elections on May 6th, MEPI partnered with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to build a mobile radio station dedicated to impartial, accurate, and equitable elections reporting as an effective way to provide voters with the information needed to make informed choices at the ballot box. In alignment with one of its main assistance objectives of participatory governance, MEPI worked with IFES to utilize one of the Tunisians main sources of election information, the radio, and broadcast programs in remote and hard-to-access rural areas with high rates of illiteracy to ensure that the democratic process represents all Tunisians. The station drove up and down the length of Tunisia and is fully equipped with modern equipment, a soundproof studio open to public view, and the studio can hold up to six guests and air programs both via FM frequencies and internet streaming. Hedia Jbali, a producer and host of Youth Radio, mentioned that “representatives of candidate lists were very satisfied with being guests on the mobile radio. They were surprised that the radio came to their cities to give them the opportunity to make their voices heard.”
During the mobile radio station tour, IFES invited journalists who had participated in previous trainings to host one of several radio shows to inform voters about the elections. For example, IFES partnered with the Tunisian Union of Community Media to launch “Soutkom” (Your Voice), a radio program that reached over 16,000 listeners through social media networks. The program provided citizens, local government representatives, and nongovernmental organizations with a forum to discuss local communities’ needs and priorities and disseminate information about the upcoming elections. “Soutkom” ended up being more than just a radio show to those that participated— people saw it as a bridge between local government and citizens that facilitates communication and open dialogue.
The success of “Soutkom” led to subsequent radio programs like “One Municipality in One Hour,” a program created by National Radio and IFES that gave more than 240 candidate list members the opportunity to present their electoral platforms to voters. Radio Nefzawa FM, a popular local radio channel, also made use of the station to air programs that discussed the municipal elections and the role of youth participation. Additionally, Radio Djerid gathered more than 400 youth to share success stories, professional advice, and debate election related-topics while using the mobile radio station to broadcast a discussion by citizens on their motivations for voting in the upcoming elections and the impact of their participation in strengthening their communities. Overall, this mobile radio station played a critical role in the 2018 municipal elections. By traveling to citizens in remote areas who typically lack access to electoral information, this initiative was able to motivate people to participate in the elections and ensure that the democratic process represents all Tunisians.