- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

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

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Tunisia, Freedom of Speech

Here at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis [1], a compromise has been reached on internet governance [2]. Now the spotlight turns to free speech issues [3]and the Tunisian government's heavy-handedness against dissidents and journalists [4].

In addition to the copious news reporting [5], bloggers are hard at work. Be sure to follow WSISblogs.org [6] for the latest. The APC WSIS blog [7] is also excellent. The Technorati WSIS tag page [8] and search page [9] are also great sources of WSIS blogging in all languages.

The tireless Andy Carvin [10]has been faithfully blogging major speeches. Here is one quote he has from Kofi Annan [11]:

 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 [12]:

 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 [13] and I are participating tomorrow in a workshop called “Expression Under Repression [14].” 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 [15] 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 [16].

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.