I’ve had death threats, I am currently having to argue in court over the protection of my sources, but I have never had to run from the government, or been imprisoned because I spoke out. Being targeted for assassination is a whole lot different than death threats from random cowards, or being sued by people afraid the world will find out the truth about them.
It takes real courage to carry on in the face of intimidation.
The most famous investigative reporter in Tunisia is a 32-year-old blogger named Olfa Riahi. She broke the country‚Äôs biggest post-revolutionary news story‚ÄĒknown as Sheratongate ‚Äďand¬† helped to save the country‚Äôs liberal revolution from the Islamists. When Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa¬†met¬†with President Barack Obama¬†on Friday he was promised $500 million in loan guarantees and heard America‚Äôs enduring commitment to Tunisia‚Äôs democratic transition. But without Riahi, that transition might have come to a dead end.
Her story, named after the hotel where the financial and sexual scandal took place, appeared on December 26, 2012. Almost two years earlier, the first uprising of the Arab Spring had swept Tunisia‚Äôs long-time dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, out of power. But the new government, dominated by the Islamist Ennahda party, was trying to impose Islamic law on Tunisia. Sheratongate exposed the¬† hypocrisy of the new rulers, ¬†bringing down Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafik Abdessalem, the son-in-law of the Ennahda party chief Rachid Ghannouchi.
The Sheratongate affair, along with massive public reaction to two assassinations of liberal leaders and growing revulsion against Ennahda‚Äôs heavy-handed grab for power, eventually brought down the entire government, which has been replaced by the technocratic administration of Prime Minister Jomaa and a new Tunisian constitution, hailed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and others as a ‚Äúmodel‚ÄĚ for ‚Äúthe world.‚ÄĚ
In exchange for her service to the country, Olfa Riahi was targeted for assassination by Tunisia‚Äôs Salafist extremists. She was blocked from leaving Tunisia for eight months and dragged into court on charges that could put her in prison for 100 years. A self-employed blogger who breaks her stories on her own French-language website,¬†to be good again, Riahi has become a media star in Tunisia, attracting congratulations and journalistic tips wherever she goes.
‚ÄúI always wear a smile in public,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt want to let the politicians think they can intimidate me. I‚Äôm a democrat. I believe in transparency and good governance. This is the face I want Tunisia to put forward to the world.‚ÄĚ¬† Read more »