Update, February 16. Google France welcomed five of the six Tunisian journalists at its offices for a lunch to hear about their experiences in Paris and to discuss progress of freedom of expression in their homeland.

In a single, magnificent moment, journalists in Tunisia liberated themselves from the shackles of censorship. They no longer were forced to regurgitate government propaganda and finally could write what they wanted. Instead, they were confronted with the challenges of freedom.

We are teaming up with the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde to help tackle this crucial challenge. Six Tunisian journalists are coming to Paris to work for three months in the Le Monde newsroom. As the paper explained, the journalists will help cover daily news and the upcoming French Presidential election. Our hope is that they then will return home with new skills that will serve to construct a new, free but responsible professional press in Tunisia.

The six winners of the Google internship are:
  • Radhouane Somai, a political reporter for the Business News website.
  • Hajer Ben Arjroudi, an an investigative reporter for the Express FM radio station.
  • Thameur Mekki contributes to three online webzines, specializing in digital culture.
  • Zbiss Hanene, the editor of the culture section for Realities magazine.
  • Hajer Jeridi, the editor-in-chief of the www.gnet.tn news site.
  • Nacer Talel, a freelance photographer
At Google, we are aware of the need to work with publishers to smooth the transition not only from oppression to freedom, but from analogue to digital distribution. We are sponsoring a series of digital journalism prizes with Institut de Sciences Politiques, the International Press Institute in Vienna and the Global Editors Network in Paris. We also are the proud backer of Reporters Without Borders’ annual Netizen of the Year award. In addition, we have come up with a series of products such as Adsense to split online ad revenues with publishers.

The collaboration with Le Monde marks a significant step forward in our engagement. We are working hard to support free elections in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, building a series of new Internet tools that allow politicians to reach voters and voters to have their voice heard by politicians.

A special thanks goes out to Le Monde’s Sylvie Kauffmann for this project. Sylvie covered Central Europe for Le Monde when it the communist imposed countries of the Soviet empire freed themselves. Sylvie continued to become the Le Monde’s first female editor-in-chief. She travelled to Tunis and personally interviewed and chose all the candidates. For her, and for Le Monde, strong journalism represents a key building block for free societies.