Christopher O'Connor » Former British Ambassador to Tunisia

Leaving Tunisia

I leave Tunisia today after the most memorable four and a half years of my career. It has been a privilege. The country is transformed from the one I arrived in. The biggest changes are of course in government and politics. Tunisia now has an elected government and multiple parties each compete freely for public support. The media is also unrecognisable from the state-controlled communications operation before the revolution. But … Read more »Leaving Tunisia

Media Freedom

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Today is World Press Freedom Day. Should journalists in Tunisia be celebrating or protesting? I am often asked what I think about the state of media freedom here. My instinctive response is to compare with the situation before the 2011 revolution. It is like comparing night and day. When I first arrived in Tunisia, the media were more constrained than in any country I have ever visited. Every newspaper front … Read more »Media Freedom

Samar Samir Mezghanni

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A guest post by Samar Mezghani. Samar is a Chevening Alumnus who graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2010-2011. She was featured by Arabian Business Magazine as among the 100 most powerful Arab women in 2013. Samar appeared twice in the Guinness Book of Records for her writing. Samar is also a facilitator and Global Change Maker for the British Council. I once envied a pregnant cat: It was … Read more »Samar Samir Mezghanni

Political Assassination

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I was deeply saddened by the tragic death yesterday of Chokri Belaid. My thoughts are with his family at this time. Mr Belaid was a lifelong advocate of free speech, justice and human rights. Under the Ben Ali regime, he was one of those who took real personal risks to defend others whose freedom was under attack. Famously he defended both secularists and Islamists equally. It is doubly tragic that, … Read more »Political Assassination

Two years after the Revolution

Monday 14 January marks the second anniversary of the historic departure of Tunisia’s former president and the beginning of its remarkable political transition. The date is now a prominent milestone in Tunisian history. And given the wider impact of Tunisia’s revolution across North Africa and beyond, it is a milestone also in the history of the Arab region. Tunisians have widely ranging views on how the country has fared over … Read more »Two years after the Revolution

Prize for Compromise

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I was in London this week in support of a visit by President Marzouki and Ennahda Leader Rached Ghannouchi, who were jointly awarded a prize for international statesmanship from the Royal Institute for International Affairs at Chatham House. The prize has generated some controversy in Tunisia. Members of the political opposition and a number of groups championing women’s rights have expressed concern that it represents support for specific individuals in … Read more »Prize for Compromise


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What are the challenges of leadership in today’s chaotic world? This was the big question we tried to answer at a fascinating event in Hammamet. The British Council brought together 80 present and future leaders from five countries in North Africa and from the UK to examine the challenges and opportunities of modern leadership. These were not only political leaders – although political figures were present from all sides and … Read more »Leadership

International Day of Democracy

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Tomorrow is International Day of Democracy.  The United Nations have chosen the theme for this year as Democracy Education. In countries like the UK, which has had a democratic system for centuries, debates are very much alive about how our democracy should evolve. Most recently the focus has been on whether the role or make-up of the House of Lords, our second Chamber, should change. There are ongoing political debates … Read more »International Day of Democracy

Paralympic Inspiration


Unprecedented numbers across the world watched the London 2012 Olympics this summer. The media described The Games as “the greatest show on earth”. Spectators across the world enjoyed the humour, originality and party atmosphere of the opening and closing ceremonies. And the historic achievements of team GB were a bonus. Here in Tunisia, people were glued to TV screens for this unique event. And they were thrilled by the unprecedented … Read more »Paralympic Inspiration

Maghreb Cooperation

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A striking feature of North Africa is that its countries each have closer trade links outside the region than within it. Over 70% of their imports and exports are with Europe while only 4% are with each other. But their economies are highly complementary, some with large energy reserves, others with strong service industries, agriculture or industry. Most economists agree that increasing connectivity between these countries would benefit all of … Read more »Maghreb Cooperation