A national day of protest against censorship in Tunisia, staged on December 25th, has prompted criticism from some bloggers who feel the effort is misplaced.
Even though he participated, blogger Anis considered Action Blank Post 2008 – in which writers published a blank blog entry to signify censorship – a waste of time.
Fellow blogger Saloua derided the idea, saying that Tunisians should instead increase their writing on that day; otherwise we shall be deemed as practicing internal censorship, especially as we are exposed to censorship every day.
Since 2006, bloggers in Tunisia have used December 25th to raise awareness of the banning and manipulation of online writing. An estimated 160 bloggers participated in this year's demonstration.
Numerous bloggers complained in 2008 of intrusions and blockages of websites by the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI). Many Tunisians also accuse ATI of supporting bans on a number of popular websites. It was this issue that prompted journalist Ziad
El Heni to file a lawsuit against the agency, accusing it of blocking the social networking website Facebook before it was re-opened last August based on an order from the President. El Heni lost the case in a lower court, and is preparing
himself for an appeal.
Tunisian authorities have blocked access to the
Matroudine website dedicated to provide information and support for the five students and activists from the Tunisian General Student Union (UGET) who went on hunger strike to protest their arbitrary exclusion from Tunisian universities and
deprivation of their right to education because of their activism within the UGET.
The five young UGET unionists, namely Ali bouzouzeya, Taoufik Louati, Aymen Jaabiri, Mohamed Boualleg, and Mohamed Soudani, have been on hunger strike since February 11th, 2009. After more than 48 days of hunger strike their health condition has
greatly worsened. However, Tunisian authorities continue not to react.
Tunisia is carrying out one of the most massive wave of online censorship targeting major social websites, video-sharing websites, blogs aggregators, blogs, facebook pages and profiles. The most recent victim of this wave is flickr, the popular
and one of the best online photo-sharing website, blocked today, April 28th, 2010.
Last week, on April 22, 2010, Tunisia has added 3 more websites to its list of banned video-sharing websites in the country. Blip.tv, metacafe.com and vidoemo.com are not welcome aymore in the country. In early April, 2010, WAT.TV, another social
networking and media-sharing website, which is believed to be the 3rd video broadcaster on the Internet in France, has also been blocked.
The targeting of video-sharing websites by Tunisian censors started on September 3rd, 2007, with the ban of Dailymotion, then it was the turn of Youtube to be banned from the country's Internet on November 2nd, 2007.
Witnesses say the security forces moved to prevent a planned demonstration by internet users against the blocking of access to internet sites.
There was a strong police presence in the main avenue of the capital and adjoining streets Saturday, after a demonstration was announced in recent days via sites including Twitter and Facebook.
One of the protest organisers, opposition journalist and blogger Soufiane Chourabi, said the protesters had planned to march, wearing T-shirts with slogans such as Lift the lockdown of the internet , to the Ministry of Communications. He
said organisers had applied to the Interior Ministry for permission to hold the demonstration, but received no reply.
Once again, in the post Ben Ali era, censorship and freedom of speech (or lack of), is at the centre of debate. The reason this time is the ongoing saga of a legal action lodged by three lawyers against the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI)) calling
upon it to block pornographic websites.
Early next month, the ATI, will appeal to the Court of Cassation's (the highest court of appeal) verdict issued on May 26, 2011, by a court in Tunis ordering the agency to block access to pornographic content on the web.
The ATI, which lost an appeal on August 15, 2011, claims that the filtering of pornographic websites listed by Smart Filter could not be carried out for the five Internet service providers.
The Tunisian Internet Agency, wanting to put an end to its old image as an Internet censor during the rule of Ben Ali, prefers to raise the awareness of Internet users, and especially parents by giving them practical tips on the use of parental
control software instead of blocking websites.
A court hearing of a case regarding censorship of pornographic websites in Tunisia has been postponed to February 22nd, confirmed Olivia Gre, director of the Tunisian chapter of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Last year, a lawsuit was filed by three Tunisian lawyers, who found free access to pornographic websites in Tunisia to be dangerous to children and corrosive of Islamic values. The court's decision sided with the lawyers, yet the Tunisian
Internet Agency (ATI) appealed the ruling on May 26th. On August 11th, 2011, the appeal was denied, but the ATI delayed implementing the decision, pleading technical and financial limitations.
They appealed the decision again, to Tunisia's Supreme Court, prolonging the legal debate as to the acceptable extent of internet freedom.
On February 3rd, RSF released a statement, entitled Internet Filtering: Risks to Stepping Backwards , in which it argued that blocking porn sites in Tunisia could mark a prelude to the return of old censorship practices of the
previous regime. The statement recommended that internet providers promote tools of parental control.
The Tunisian Internet will remain unblocked, for the time being. The Supreme Court of Tunisia has cancelled the decision of a lower court, which had previously ruled in favor of blocking pornographic content on the internet.
The decision did not end the case, but sent it back to a lower court, giving an apparent vote of no confidence in the legal argumentation previously presented.
The decision was immediately hailed by free speech advocates and by the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI). The ATI's legal argument against the suit, however, did not hinge upon issues of civil liberties, but rather the technical ability of the
agency to implement the decision. According to a press release distributed by the ATI this afternoon, all attempts of application of judgment led to serious degradation of service.
Olivia Gre, director of the Tunisia office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said: For us, it's definitely good news. It means not taking a step backwards . According to Gre, the trial would begin from scratch, with new legal arguments to
be employed in two to three months.
Government representatives in Tunisia have confirmed that the country has officially brought its repressive Internet censorship policies, known as Ammar 404, to an end.
According to Information and Communication Minister Mongi Marzoug this has been brought on by the recent revolution in Tunisia and the interim government will now try to promote access to information and freedom of expression. The launching of
the country's National Forum of Internet governance will be the end of Ammar 404, he said.
Tunisia will also try to prove to the world that they have truly ended censorship as he presented the main objectives of the upcoming ICT4All conference to be held in Tunisia.