Tunisia: Internet Freedom in Nation Hovers Between Present Fragility and Future Hope


Last Tuesday Tunisia celebrated the National Day of Internet Freedom. A ceremony was held at the Carthage Presidential Palace, where the Tunisian President paid tribute to the memory of Zouhair Yahyaoui.

Yahyaoui was one of Tunisia's first vocal online political dissidents who fought against corruption during the Ben Ali era. His publication of the critical TuneZine blog led to his arrest and reported torture by the former regime. He died on March 13, 2005, at the age of 37.

A number of bloggers whose names figured prominently in the Tunisian Revolution, such as Slim Ammaou and Lina Mhani, were also honored by the President. Although the initiative seems to be appreciated and welcomed by many Tunisian bloggers, some expressed skepticism regarding the progress Tunisia has made toward realizing genuine Internet freedom in Tunisia.

Sami Bouguarbia, a Tunisian blogger whose blog was the first to be censored by the former regime in 2000, expressed his frustration over the fragility of internet freedom in Tunisia. "It's quite impressive to recognize a national day of Internet freedom, but it is also frustrating to feel that Internet censorship could take other forms - mainly moral or religious," he said.

Reporters Without Borders have lately released a report analyzing the evolving context of Internet freedom in Tunisia. The report highlights the tangible progress Tunisia has achieved since the fall of Ben Ali's regime in terms of Internet freedom. However, the report cautions, "the potential resumption of filtering as a way of resorting to the former repressive measures."