Tunisia: 404 not found

Tunisian internet users are now too familiar with this error message 404 not found and they have even created an imaginary person that is responsible for censorship and nicknamed it Ammar the scissors of censorship. While in Tunisia, just try to open Youtube or Daily motion; you will get this error message! And if you want to get news from Al Jazeera or Alarabiya, the Tunisian Internet Agency is sorry because it cannot provide you with this service! You want to know more about the real life in Tunisia from the writings of Tunisian people? You try to visit sites such as Tunisinews, aafaq.org , or nawaat.org, we are again sorry, we cannot grant you this privilege. Your Tunisian friends that you had just met in Tunisia told you about his/her blog and gave you the link to take a look, we are really sorry this is impossible!

News about online censorship in Tunisia is now widespread on the net and this especially after the recent ban on the social networking website Facebook. I was in the United States when I heard about the censorship of facebook in my country and I had been really chocked by this piece of sad news. Indeed, Facebook is used by thousands of Tunisians for different goals and especially for work and business and even one of the two communication operators in Tunisia has launched an advertising campaign in it. As to me Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with my friends worldwide, to meet childhood friends that I have lost for years and years, to communicate with my students and supervisors, and to know about different cultural, social, and sportive activities in Tunisia and abroad. Bad news succeeded one another, two days later I heard about the censorship of the blog I co-write with my boyfriend. Again I was chocked and spent the whole night looking for a definition for censorship to find some convincing reasons explaining this practice and I came out with the following results:

According to Wikipedia, Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor. The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored.
It can be moral (pornography), military (the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics away especially from espionage), political (governments holding back secret information from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to rebel), religious (the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed), and finally corporate (the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light).

I also found out that many countries are exercising control over the internet and that few governments are open about informing their citizens about internet controls. There is no place you can get an answer as a citizen from your state about how they are filtering and what is being filtered. Filtering and censorship happen in the shadows and that is how I realized that I am not going to find an answer to my questions. We, my boyfriend and I, just reopened the blog and went ahead with writing.

On Wednesday 17th September 2008 I discovered that the blog is censored again. The first censorship occurred in August 21st, so less than a month ago. I again tried to find a logical reason for this censorship and I again spent the night reading and re-reading the different posts of the blog in the hope of finding an answer but in vain. Some bloggers with whom I had discussions explained to me that it should be due to my post about the death of a Tunisian man shot by the Tunisia police for the mere reason of taking part in a demonstration. Again we just re-opened the blog and went ahead with writing. But less than 12 hours after, the blog is censored again and for no reason again.

My blog is not the only blog censored in Tunisia the list is too long .Hardly does the sun rises without learning about the censorship of a blog here is: Astrubal, Mochageb, enne9ed, Samsoum, For Gafsa, Against Censorship, Free word, Free Race, etc . Pardon me if I cannot mention all the censored blogs; the list is so long that I cannot retain all of them. All have undergone a case of censorship and now re -censorship. But the problem does not stop at censorship it reaches arrests, punishment, and persecution of internet users. Cases include: the Tunisian journalist and blogger Slim Boukhdhir and the Online writer Mohamed Abbou. And again the list is not complete.


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