WSIS in Tunisia: governance issue settled, free speech issue boils

Here at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, a compromise has been reached on internet governance. Now the spotlight turns to free speech issues and the Tunisian government's heavy-handedness against dissidents and journalists.

In addition to the copious news reporting, bloggers are hard at work. Be sure to follow for the latest. The APC WSIS blog is also excellent. The Technorati WSIS tag page and search page are also great sources of WSIS blogging in all languages.

The tireless Andy Carvin has been faithfully blogging major speeches. Here is one quote he has from Kofi Annan:

 The Internet's very life blood is freedom – allows journalists to do their work and citizens to hold govts accountable. Without this, the information revolution will stall and be stillborn.

And here is how he describes remarks by the Swiss president:

 The president of the Swiss Confederation is speaking right now. He's just said he can't believe there are still UN members states that imprison citizens because of their opinons. He added that all people attending WSIS should be allowed to express their opinions freely and openly, clearly a reference to Tunisian interference in civil society's activities here. The comments were met with roaring applause from the civil society gallery.

The Tunisian government clearly does not agree. Ethan Zuckerman and I are participating tomorrow in a workshop called “Expression Under Repression.” We have heard that the Tunisian government has expressed the view that such a topic is not consistent with the conference theme of “ICT for Development.”  Of course, we have a different view, and are looking forward to a our session tomorrow. Our colleague John Palfrey has an excellent post on the impact of internet censorship on people’s lives and why we should care. Tunisian democracy activist Neila Charchour Hachicha has a poem in protest of the situation.

A number of people here are also disappointed that the local government’s behavior is detracting from what should be the central focus of this meeting: how to use technology to improve the lives of the world’s underprivileged, and how to bridge the digital divide.


  • “Tireless?” I’m exhausted! ;-)

  • Espero poder aportarles desde Ecuador con el blog de càtedra y reporterìa en internet a cargo de periodista digital.

    Professor of Digital Journalism in Ecuador. The graduate International in Cuba. Correspondent of the Periodic International

  • Since I am not a member of the recognized tunisian civil society, I could not attend the wsis like hundred others like me. So I was watching the live program on the National TV7 to keep informed.

    And you know what? When the Swiss president spoke about liberties in Tunisia, he was CENSORED and the national TV broadcasted a program on fishing in the mediterranean sea !

    So what can we, Tunisian citizens, excpect from a regime that mistreats its host in such a way?

    I feel so ashamed and so humiliated.

  • […] Despite the odds, we managed to pull off our “Expression Under Repression” seminar here at the World Summit For Internet and Society. This was largely thanks to the strong spine of our sponsors, the Dutch NGO Hivos, who fended off a phalanx of plainclothes police who tried to shut us down. The goons finally backed off after the Dutch ambassador intervened and warned of a diplomatic incident. Before we began, uncertainty and rumor reigned about whether we’d be allowed to hold the event at all. On Wednesday, as I mentioned in a previous post, the Tunisian authorities told organizers that the seminar’s theme had nothing to do with the “ICT for Development” theme of the conference, and was thus inappropriate. On the morning of the seminar a sign outside the room said it was canceled. It was not included in the official program, and a rumor heard from delegates who visited the UNDP pavillion claimed that people who showed up would get arrested. Our colleagues have posted some eyewitness accounts of the action here. […]

  • […] hosted the Internet Governance Forum in 2005. What happened five years later is widely known. The supporters of holding the IGF in […]

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