As Tunisia prepares to host the controversial World Summit on the Information Society in November, Tunisian opposition activist Neila Charchour Hachicha informs Global Voices that the online freedom of speech protest site launched by Tunisians on Monday, www.yezzi.org has already been blocked by the Tunisian authorities.
The online protest, called “Freedom of Expression in Mourning,” is organized by The Tunisian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Cyberspace (Association Tunisienne pour la Promotion et la Défense du Cyberespace). Here is how they describe the protest and its motivations:
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will be held in Tunisia from 16th to 18th November 2005.
* A World Summit on the Information Society cannot have any concrete impact on the world community, if the main concern of such a Summit, which should be the human being, remains relegated to a simple accessory.
* Experience showed that concerning information issues, top level international meetings have never led to positive measures to make public's rights effective to get free access to information.
* Dictatorships similar to that of the Tunisian General Ben Ali, use the information's restrictions as a strategic pillar conscious that without restrictions their tyrannies would fail.
* Continuous impunity of tyrants, who violate on a daily basis the right of their people to freedom of expression, shows that apart NGO, it is illusory to count on “democratic” governments to support the right of free access to independent information.
* Finally, if there's a stake in the World Summit on the Information Society, it should not only be about reducing the “digital gap “, but it should be about reducing the evil that corrode peace in the world which is the “democratic gap”.
Therefore throughout the WSIS and in order to get the attention of the Tunisian and the International public opinion to the cruel absence of freedom of expression and information in Tunisia, and the obvious incoherence between the principles of this world summit and its hosting by the violent and repressive Tunisian regime, a working group has been gathered under the sponsorship of the Tunisian Association for the promotion and defense of the Cyberspace (TAPD – Cyberspace) in order to launch the campaign:
“Freedom of Expression in Mourning!”
This campaign starts today, October 3, 2005, and will end with the closure of the World Summit on the Information Society. Within the framework of this campaign, we will immediately start an initiative defined by the following actions:
* Since we are physically unable to demonstrate within Tunisian public spaces, we will use the internet to organize permanent virtual demonstrations in order to express our total disapproval with the Tunisian dictatorial regime.
Visit their website to view the online protest and contribute materials. The site is trilingual: French, Arabic and English. (Scroll down to the bottom for the English.) You are also invited to download a badge and link it to their site in support of the cause.
UPDATE: Activist Neila Charchour Hachicha has written a long post on her blog about the situation. An excerpt:
Allthough most protesters are anonymous the regime censored the website in Tunisia the same day it was launched. If it proves something, it does prove that the regime is much more frightened then the 100 virtual protesters.
So finally, who is more powerfull? Is it anonymous but free citizens claiming their right to be discontent or is it a frightened regime supposed to hold a strong legitimacy?
In reality it is only when a regime totally lacks democratic legitimacy that it badly needs to be authotitarian and violent. But when people really want freedom and democracy, sooner or later they just get it!
Dear readers, you are all invited to support us in this initiative since freedom of expression and democracy are no more local causes but universal causes in which any one can engage regardless of his nationality or his religious belonging. All human beings deserve dignity. All human beings deserve freedom and democracy. It is the only and unique way to avoid terrorism and violence whether they are legally justified or not.
She encourages people everywhere to participate in the online protest.