Tunisian Zouhair Yahyaoui will always be remembered among Tunisian activists as someone who had sacrificed his life for the struggle for freedom of speech.
Yahyaoui, who had adopted the pen name Ettounsi or The Tunisian and was a graduate in economic sciences and Internet journalist, had invited readers of his satirical website TUNeZINE to vote on whether Tunisia was a “republic, a kingdom, a zoo or a prison” on June 2, 2000. Soon after wards, he was picked up from an internet cafe by plainclothes police officers, without an arrest warrant.
In November 2003, Yahyaoui was released from prison after spending 18 months and on March 13, 2005, he died of a heart attack at the age of 36. During his time in prison, Yahyaoui went on hunger strike several times in protest against his imprisonment conditions and supporters claim he was also subjected to torture.
To mark his forth death anniversary, The Network of Tunisian Bloggers for Free Blogging reminds us about Tunisia's first Internet prisoner:
تمرّ اليوم 4سنوات على رحيل زهير اليحياوي مؤسس موقع “تونزين”، وقد توفي الفقيد على إثر نوبة قلبية وهو لا يزال في ريعان شبابه.
دخل السجن في ربيع 2002 ودفع غاليا ثمن تشبثه بالدفاع عن الحرية مستعملا في ذلك التقنيات الحديثة التي وفرتها شبكة “الأنترنيت”، وهو ما جعله يصبح رمزا للنضال على الشبكة.
كان ولا يزال يمثل نموذجا للمناضل والمدافع الصلب عن قضايا الديمقراطية ـ و قد دخل عدة مرات في اضراب عن الطعام للمطالبة بتحسين وضعه داخل السجن دون أن تستجيب الادارة العامة للسجون لمطالبه وقد أثرت ظروف اعتقاله على صحته التي تدهورت
He had been thrown in jail in the spring of 2002 and paid heavily for his commitment to defend freedom, using the modern techniques provided by the “Internet”, which made him become a symbol of the struggle on the web.
He has been and continues to be a model for activists and defenders of democracy. He had gone on hunger strikes several times to demand better conditions in prison but the Public Administration for Prisons did not respond to his requests. The conditions of his detention had affected his health, which deteriorated.
And the situation seems to have deteriorated even further in Tunisia since Yahyaoui's death. Fellow Tunisian blogger and Global Voices Advocacy editor Sami ben Gharbia updates us on the repression of the Internet in his country in this post.