Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Just two from today

Ethan Zuckerman: What if Tunisia had a revolution, but nobody watched?
Tunisia is a deeply authoritarian state, but it’s one that’s masterful at public relations. Despite being an aggressive censor of the internet, Tunisia was chosen to host the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, apparently convincing the rest of the world that they’d use the opportunity to loosen the restrictions on online and offline speech that keep Tunisian opposition groups in check.

Global Voices attended the summit with the support of Dutch foundation Hivos, and we ran a workshop titled “Expression Under Repression” – the Tunisian government removed our workshop from the program, chained the doors of the room where we were to meet and relented only when the Dutch government threatened a diplomatic incident if we weren’t allowed to speak. When we convened, Tunisian security police flooded into the room and began photographing and videotaping the attendees, a technique designed to intimidate anyone brave enough to attend our session. (They also ate all our cookies.) When I led a workshop on internet security, a senior member of the intelligence services introduced himself to me and sat in the front row, taking copious notes, while his associates confiscated the open source software we were attempting to distribute to attendees. Some of the people who met with our team were later detained by authorities. It was a memorable introduction to a country that maintains a network of secret prisons, controls the press and the NGO community and systematically suppresses dissent, all while managing to maintain an image as a comfortable tourist destination and a (sometimes) cooperative partner in US anti-terror efforts.
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Jillian C York: Letters from Tunisia
Along with Twitter and Facebook, I’ve received numerous missives from friends on the ground in Tunisia. In the past 48 hours, those notes and letters have become increasingly desperate [...]

And tonight, on the phone with a Tunisian friend in California, whose phone calls to contacts in Tunisia have been filled with gunshots in the background, and who is solidly pleading for the US government to step in and, at the very least, denounce the shootings.
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