Tunisia : Continuing Internet War

Alaa Kamal
28/10/2009
For many years, Tunisia has been ranked among the worst countries in the world in dealing with the Internet, where the monitoring  and blocking of sites and blogs, as well as strict control on internet cafés is an ongoing policy
 While civil society in  Tunisia,  know  for sure that Ben Ali's  election declaration  - in which he became president of Tunisia for a fifth term - -about improving the democratic situation  - are  statements for media consumption during the election period, but then another segment of the Tunisian people honestly wished , that even  a few of those promises would come true.

        As usual, the first gift from Ben Ali to the Tunisians at the beginning of his fifth term as stated by Arabnews , Yemen Portal (Aggregator of Yemen) , Agyal,  AlHewar and the  Progressive Democratic Party site in Tunisia citing  from AlJazeera .net and  ANHRI is to block . Al-Jazeera .Net .
  Al-Jazeera correspondent in Tunisia said that site has been blocked. And that no official could not be contacted to comment on that. Khamis  Ben Brik added that  other sites were either blocked or  took a longer time to open. The comments by many  readers of the the Al-Jazeera Net News on the victory of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali  were all denouncing the blocking the site. One comment read," Blocking Al-Jazeera today 25.10.2009 is due to the publication of a report on the book “The Regent of Carthage”, orchestrating the influence of my family Trabelsi and Materi."
        
 
Al-Jazeera aired a report on a book published in France in which he addressed what they called the dominance of the wife of Tunisian President on the reins of power in the country, and control of the family Materi and the family of Leila Trabelsi on  many resources, especially after  Ben Ali ‘s health condition became worse. The authors also pointed to what they called Paris complicity with the Tunisian regime.
Al Jazeera also broadcast a coverage of the Tunisian elections last Friday which included an interview a Tunisian opposition figure, former Secretary General of the Democratic Progressive Party, Ahmed Najib Chebbi who reviewed the limitations to which opposition is exposed . Al Jazeera Mubasher, direct from Paris, interviewed Hamma Hammami, leader of the banned Communist Workers Party, who was guest to the program "live with" . Hamma revealed the reality of public freedoms and the "oppression" suffered by political activists not loyal to the government by the authorities.
Opposing Tunisians outside of Tunisia weeks ago launched a public information campaign in various media, especially the  French  and considered the results of the election were settled in advance for the Ben Ali, accusing the government of rigging the elections.
The Tunisian government considered this interference in private affairs of Tunisia AlJazeera hostile to the regime in Tunisia now.
 It is not the first dispute of its kind as far as  Al-Jazeera is concerned. Tunisia, in  2006 ,Tunisia withdrew its ambassador in Doha before being sent back last year in protest of interviewing  Moncef Marzouki head of the banned Congress Republic   saying  "He tried to spread dissent and incited people to civil disobedience.   
This attitude of the Tunisian government is not surprising as Tunisia has appeared on the list of the most repressive of Internet users report by the Committee to Protect Journalists issued in mid-2009.
The report strongly criticized the Government  harassing  bloggers in particular as well as closing Radio Kelma, and AlHewar.
In addition the government takes in the prosecution of some of the opposition and journalists and putting them to trial. Tunisia ranked   seventh on the list of the ten worst countries for bloggers to live in, taking the vanguard of North Africa in terms of imposing censorship on the Internet and control of content and electronic sabotage, according to a report of the Committee.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, ANHRI, strongly criticized these practices saying  that Tunisia has received three blows on Sunday 25/10/2009.

The control of president, "Zine El Abidine Ben Ali" on the reins of power in Tunisia is asserted for a fifth term ending in 2014, in a formal election whose results were prepared and known in advance.

The formalities and measures taken for Ben Ali’s stay in power for 27 years, will continue to inhibit democracy for another five years.

The last blow was the decision to deprive the Tunisian citizen of one of the most important information sources; the blocking of “AlJazeera Net” in Tunisia.

The victory of President Ben Ali in presidential elections in Tunisia, clearly marks the absence of democracy and the continuing blatant violations of human rights, was quite expected.

Yet, blocking “AlJazeera Net” website on the same day Ben Ali became president for the fifth time, is a blow to the right of the citizens to access true and accurate information , and makes the Tunisians an easy catch for the Tunisian official media known to be lacking independence and diversity of opinions.

Blocking “Al Jazeera Net” came a few days after blocking “MyPortail” news site , due to that both sites published reviews of the French book, "The Regent of Carthage", which monitored the dominance of the strong wife of President Ben Ali and her family on Tunisia in the last years.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said, "We cannot imagine Tunisian citizen under siege of media all speaking one voice and one opinion as of now. The only difference the citizen in Tunisia will see is the new faces that advocate this one opinion. These new faces could be of Tunisian and Egyptian journalists or some Lebanese and Jordanians who dumped the values and ethics of journalism , and fell in for the praise of a despotic regime and made it their duty to attack human rights activists and Tunisian opposition; cheap work for cheap gains lavished by this autocratic regime"