Sunday, November 20

WSIS - notes & quotes

Just a few notes & quotes about the WSIS - am not trying to give a good overview here, much more want to relate experiences of attendees:

Yesterday, we [i.e. Ethan Zuckerman and "his partners in crime", I guess] were warned that our session [called Expression under Repression] could be cancelled by the Tunisian authorities. We also discovered that the session wasn't listed in the official program guide. Today, we came to the room where the session was to be held and there was a sign on the door stating that the workshop was cancelled. Friends who passed by the UNDP booth on the WSIS floor earlier today heard gossip that the security forces would appear at our session and anyone who attended would be arrested. And I got a few SMSs from people who'd asked about our session at the information booths and had been told there was no information on our session.This low-grade harrasment did nothing to dampen our turnout for the session. Ethan Zuckerman

here's some more information by the Berkman Center for Internet and society on the same incident.

the obvious presence of military, police and tourism police should strengthen that sense of security. In three kilometres around the airport and around the Kram Expo, there was a policemen at every 250 meters and the closer you got to the Kram Expo, there were even policemen on horseback and special forces. Tunesia must be a country with more policemen than inhabitants. In front of every official hotel was a policemen with a stengun and in the hotel secret service people were just chatting as natural Tunesians, while in the meantime checking potential contacts with Tunesian dissidents. more from Jak Boumans

Another post by Ethan Zuckerman about the "Citizen's Summit":

a counter-summit, [...] where issues like the Internet and human rights - which have been difficult to get onto the main WSIS agenda - can be discussed.
A meeting Monday to plan the summit was disrupted by Tunisian security forces, who prevented organizers from entering the Goethe Institute, where the meeting was being held. Since then, there have been reports that human rights activists have been beaten by government-based thugs after meeting with summit attendees, and a French journalist attacked by security forces. In other words, it hasn't looked like a welcoming climate for a citizen's summit.
But then he talks about the actual meeting: I kept waiting for a commotion in the back of the room that never came. Later the same eveingn: the barriers to free expression in Tunis became all too clear as we walked out of the compound to catch taxis for dinner. Walking down the narrow street that from the human rights center to the main road, we past a block lined with tough looking men in street clothes, some on motorcycles. There was no apparent reason for thirty men to be standing on this corner of the street - no cafe, no shops of any sort - and no indication that the group was moving at all. [read more here]

More information about all that? Ndesanjo at "Digital Africa" has got a few more links, the OpenNet Initiative has a report on internet filtering in Tunisia.

Want to read something more positive?

A very sweet blogger I met in Tunis was representing Jordan in the the "Reach out"-Initiative

which is basically a dialogue between UK and Arab youth that aims at connecting both the western and Arabic culture, in an attempt to break stereotypes, spread awareness, and work together to make a difference. more here.

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