Facebook is unblocked in Tunisia by presidential order

Internet users in Tunisia were able to access the social networking Web site facebook today after it was blocked by the country's ISPs last month without giving any reason. Interestingly, the President of Tunisia Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali himself ordered the unblocking of the site, according to the Tunisia newspaper Alchourouk (Arabic) and the Tunisian news site Le Temps (French).

The two sources said the president ordered the unblocking of the site as soon as he became aware that it was blocked, but the sources did not give any reason as to why the site was originally blocked or why the unblocking now.

Several news portals and blogs picked up the story and reported different reasons as to why the unblocking. For example, Al-Arab Online said that, "Experts deem that the initiative of President Ben Ali mirrors the development of the internet usage in Tunisia."

A Tunisian blogger noticed (Arabic) that the unblocking coincides with the country's preparation to receive the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later this week.

Another blogger asked (French) if youtube and dailymotion will be released next.

This is probably the first time a site is reportedly unblocked by a presidential order in the Middle East and North Africa. But most importantly, the reports of the presidential intervention to give instructions to allow access to facebook imply admission of state filtering by a country that conceals its Internet blocking with an error message instead of an explicit blockpage!