Internet Censorship in Tunisia at WSIS

By: derek on 15 November 2005

The OpenNet Initiative has members attending the World Summit on the Information Society. They report that attendees are sharing a common experience: censorship by a government that claims to protect freedom of thought and expression. In response, many civil society organizations have canceled their events at WSIS. At 3:00pm (Tunis time) there will be a short press conference discussing the NGO boycott. For details, visit the WSIS group blog. The media have begun to cover this developing story, including the Associated Press and Reporters Without Borders, as well as many bloggers associated with ONI member institution the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Writing from Tunis, ONI principal John Palfrey blogs that the wireless network at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)'s Global Symposium for Regulators blocks anonymizers and protest sites, such as Tunezine. When users try to access blocked sites, they see an error message that states a technical problem prevents the site from loading, instead of admitting that the site is banned. In e-mail, Colin Maclay reports that the network in the UN forum's building is uncensored - but that next door, in the ict4all exhibit hall, the Internet is filtered. Colin notes that Tunisia's censors are paying close attention to WSIS: in the past 24 hours, they have moved to block access to Citizen's Summit home page. Ethan Zuckerman reports similar efficiency - apparently a site opposing Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was blocked within 18 hours of being created.
ONI will have more on this issue shortly - stay tuned. (Hat tip to Luis @ Berkman...)