Page 29 - FSJ_May12

This is a SEO version of FSJ_May12. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
M A Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
decency” — a light sentence com-
pared to his previous jail time, but
a signal of changing societal
norms nonetheless.
Although Ennahda’s leadership
has condemned the imprisonment
of journalists, the party has argued
that the two trials are out of their
hands. Yet it is clear that these
proceedings have the potential to
set the boundaries for press free-
dom in Tunisia for years to come. A conviction in ei-
ther case would have a chilling effect, leading to a
return to self-censorship.
Ensuring Tunisia’s Success
The Ennahda-led coalition government faces a diffi-
cult and unenviable challenge: trying to build consensus
in this increasingly polarized society, while promoting
the economic and democratic de-
velopment of the country. And it
must do so without any prior ex-
perience governing a country. In
addition, Ennahda has an urgent
responsibility to resolve the con-
flicts between religious and secu-
lar elements in society, lest the
country spend its time and energy
on issues like the niqab instead of
the economy.
Tunisia was never at the center of U.S. strategy in the
Middle East, but today Washington has a clear strategic
interest in its successful evolution into a democracy.
For if its transition falters, what does that mean for the
future of democracy in the Middle East?
Only Tunisians can resolve questions about their
identity and their relationship to religion, of course. But
the United States can help make sure that the demo-
Television stations
have traveled into rural
areas to demonstrate that
the 4-percent poverty rate
was nothing but a myth.