Disparity between Journalism Education and Journalism Practice in Four Maghreb States

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the major educational and training programs in journalism and broadcasting in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, and difficulties posed by the political, legal and media structural factors in the application of professional skills acquired through mass communication education. Observations made by journalists, students, academics and media administrators in these four Maghreb states reveal that a variety of political, legal, structural and cultural constraints are adversely affecting the professional practice of journalism and contributing to the disillusionment of an increasing number of professionally trained journalists. As a result, many of them turn away from journalism to enter advertising and public relations. A "bottom-up" approach to journalism is proposed, meaning that journalists focus on politically neutral news values to be able to practice journalism professionally.

Introduction

Information Revolution around the world has created a new challenge in countries that do not practice Western-style democratic systems or press freedoms: How to reconcile their journalism education curricula in an increasingly open global information environment to the often authoritarian or semi-authoritarian political systems around the world? North African countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia - collectively known as the Maghreb nations - have pushed for professional education and training of journalists through government-sponsored mass communication institutes and specialized media workshops. The institutes have a combined enrollment of hundreds of students, a number of whom upon graduation and some journalistic experience pursue further media studies at pan-Arab institutions like the Arab States Broadcasting Union or at universities in Western Europe and North America. But the restrictive media environment owing to political, legal and structural factors makes it quite difficult for such professionally trained journalists to practice their skills with a high degree of professionalism so that they can compete effectively with quality information choices on the Internet. The result is that an increasing number of well-educated journalists are said to find themselves disillusioned with journalism and turn to other communication fields.

This paper examines the major journalism education programs in the four North African states and the difficulties encountered in practicing professional skills acquired through journalism education. This qualitative study is primarily based on field research by the author in North Africa (See Note). Specifically, journalism education and/or training provided at the following institutions were examined: the Institute of Press and Information Sciences in Tunisia; the Center for the Improvement of Journalists and Communicators, also in Tunisia; the Arab States Broadcasting Union, based in Tunisia; the Higher Institute of Journalism in Morocco; the Higher Institute of Information and Communication in Algeria; and the communication studies degree program at the University of Benghazi in Libya. To determine whether real-life journalism allowed the graduates to practice their skills professionally, interviews were conducted with working journalists having degrees from these institutions, administrators and faculty members at the communication studies institutes in Tunisia and Morocco, and with journalism students in Tunisia and Morocco. Factors seen as adversely affecting professionalism in journalism are explored and implications for journalism curriculum and workable news values are proposed. Professionalism is defined as a journalist's ability to report on significant public affairs issues in an accurate, objective, fair and balanced manner.

Tunisia

Institute of Press and Information Sciences: Tunisia has the most comprehensive and well-developed facilities in mass communication education and training in the Maghreb. The Tunis University's Institut de Presse et des Sciences de l'Information (IPSI) has offered a four-year print and broadcast journalism degree program since 1967. …