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Tunisia Announces Intention to End Internet Censorship

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, September 13 2012

Updated

Tunisia is lifting Internet censorship. Information and Communication Minister Mongi Marzoug made the announcement on September 4 at the National Forum of Internet governance.

Under the deposed authoritarian leader President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose ouster in January 2011 triggered the Arab Spring, censorship of the Internet was extensive and draconian. Reporters Without Borders classified Tunisia as an "enemy of the Internet," while local Internet activists nicknamed the censorship Ammar 404, for the "404 Not Found" message they so often received when visiting various news, social media and information sites.

Censorship was eased after the Ben Ali regime was deposed, with access to popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as popular news sites like Al Jazeera. But some restrictions remained in place.

Minister Marzoug promised "Tunisia will prove to the world that it has truly ended censorship."

But Tunisian cyber activist and President of the Tunisian Pirate Party Sleh Eddine Kchouk expressed considerable skepticism in response to the minister's announcement.

“Tunisia has always embraced advanced technologies when it comes to the virtual world, in theory. But in practice, it’s completely different,” he stated. Kchouk expressed dissatisfaction with continuous internet monitoring by the government and believes that the old practices of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali are still persistent.

Update: Khaled Koubaa, Policy Manager North Africa at Google, adds that he sees "positive signs" coming from the government.

One of the key positive sign is the National Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to be organized next year. But to be sure that we will really "end" Internet censorship in Tunisia we will need is to organize this National IGF in a multi-stakeholder way which will help to have a real discussion on key policy change in the actual Internet policies. The big challenge will be to put in place an open and participatory policy making process that will govern the Internet in Tunisia so the ecosystem will naturally reject any tentative of censor back the network. Combatting the censorship should be at the policy and standards level not only at content level. A policy that prohibit usage of a technical standard (like VoIP for example ) is simply censoring the right of users to use the technology to express themselves. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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