Monthly Archives: June 2014

Moez Chakchouk, ATI CEO talks to Tunisia Live about issues of censorship in Tunisia during the Ben Ali era and how the issue resurfaced after the fall of Ben Ali during the Arab Bloggers Meeting held in Tunis, October 3rd-October 6th, 2011.

Tunisia Live interview of Ghazi Geblawi, a Libyan blogger, doctor and essayist during the Arab bloggers Meeting in Tunis, October 3rd-October 6th, 2011. He speaks about the Libyan Revolution.

"Providing assistance for the martyrs is a duty not a a grant"It is Months now after the revolution and the martyrs and the wounded’s families are still struggling with cases in hospitals and in courts. Discontented and jaded with waiting for so long over unsolved matters, a group of agonized families and victims gathered in front of the Military hospital in Tunis protesting last Saturday, October 1st .

As a response, a spokesman from the Ministry of Defense announced that a series of investigations will soon be undertaken to discern how to cover victims’ recovery expenses physically or psychologically and will also include tratments abroad. Mokhtar Ben Nasr states that “not all wounded are wounded of the revolution and not all who died were martyrs”. He pointed that people should make the difference between victims of the revolution and victims during “theft or uproar incidents”.

One of the cases is that of Mohamed Jandoubi who was wounded on January 13 by the police in Kram, Tunis. He is paralyzed now and is still waiting for a second surgery to be done. He is currently hospitalized in Ariana, Tunis. In a call with his mother Ms. Moufida Jandoubi, she stated that her son’s conditions are appalling and he needs to be sent abroad. The alarmed mother expressed her exhaustion and weariness because of waiting for the government to interfere and show concrete support. She appealed to the courts at her own expenses but in vain.The family of Mohamed was in charge of taking care of him for months now and what they received is an amount of 3000 Dinars for the whole process, which is “not enough” as the mother affirmed.

She expresses gratitude to all those who supported her like NGOs and Tunisian citizens providing a wheel chair for her child and medicines. “Even emotional support counts” stated the mother. After the last events in front of Military hospital, the mother stated that there is hope with the government to study her son’s case acutely which should have been done months ago.

Kasserine, one of the active regions during the revolution, has also sacrificed for the revolution. Mr Nejib Gharsallin, a lawyer and shrewd activist who lead the Lawyers’ first movement supporting Sidi Bouzid on December 22  in Kasserine, is in charge of cases of martyrs and injured people in his town. A case against the former president and former minister of interior was brought to trial 6 months ago but they have yet to hear back from the court. Mr Nejib and a number of volunteer lawyers have been dealing with a myriad of cases that need investigation and inspection from executive powers.

Two days ago he received a call from the Ministry of Interior informing him that “investigating cases was done by the military court in Kef and many wounded were interrogated”. Now, they should wait for what the military court will announce. He also mentioned that he delivered 530 files of injured cases to the state house and they contacted the families and took the required measures. Mr Nejib acknowledges the efforts of  the investigating judge in Kasserine, Lotfi Ben Jedou, who tried his best to listen to and consider the cases of all witnesses; a number that reached over 1000 individuals

 

Here are the top stories in Tunisia, October 5th, 2011:

Less than 20 days are left until the elections and Tunisians are neither sure of the parties they will elect nor of the security conditions which will follow the October 23rd elections.

This is “election phobia” as it was described by Abou Nour, a journalist from Al-Chourouk, who points out that the local market supplies have been declining for a  long time and that they are getting worse due to the beginning of the electoral campaign. Many foodstuffs are lacking in the Tunisian market such as water and milk. Tunisians are becoming afraid, and are buying huge quantities of food and water.  Some are trying to collect basic foods as soon as possible as if they are expecting starvation after the elections. The Ministry of Tourism and Commerce is trying to mitigate this lack and considers it a temporary crisis that results from the lowering of  production due to strikes and demonstration of workers and employees.

The General Manager of Supplies at the ministry said that this lack is partly due to the speculation of dried fruit sellers who bought huge quantities of mineral water in order to sell them for double the cost. He also implicated the retailers who are inventing some rumors which make people afraid of the present and the future to push them into buying huge quantities to increase their sales. News also fuels the fire by talking about gangsters, criminals and the weapons discovered in some houses while being unsure as to whether their information is credible.

Mr. Mahdi Mabrouk; a socio-political Professor said that the lack of confidence toward the elections and the opinion polls are the main causes of this fear. Besides that, many Tunisians have not yet understood the democratic transition and that is the reason why they are expecting the elections results to be catastrophic. This, in turn, impels people to think only of taking care of their families and expect bad to come.

Source: al-Chorouk

The Initiative (or Al Moubadara) is a post-revolutionary political party founded by Kamel Morjane, the Foreign Affairs Minister of the former regime, and a member of the RCD, the ex-ruling party.

The party obtained its authorization on April 1st, but since then it has remained discrete on the political stage. The head of the party, Kamel Morjane, has been the subject of many controversies; he admitted that he issued diplomatic passports to the Ben Ali family on January 16th, 2011, two days after Ben Ali’s flight to Saudi Arabia.

The party’s economic program intends to encourage a market economy based on private investment, aiming at double-digit growth of the GDP. In terms of development of Tunisia’s interior regions, the party proposes to divide Tunisia into five administrative districts, the governors of which would be under the responsibility of the Prime Ministry.

On an international scale, the party is resolved to reinforce Tunisia’s partnership with the EU.  Al Moubadara also aspires to create a Maghrebine economic community, in partnership with Libya and Algeria.

The party has not released information about its political program, but it has announced that it favors a semi-presidential system.

According to the profile of the Initiative party, most voters are essentially members of the former RCD regime. The party’s Facebook page has 20,346 fans, and an opinion poll published by Hanns-Seidel, a German Institute, shows that among Tunisian voters who have a preference, 3% plan to vote for the Initiative party.

Since the revolution of January 14th, different attempts were made to support and protect the Tunisian economy. A program for the industry and emphasis on competitiveness and stimulating initiatives promoting innovation were set.

The industrial sector has witnessed an increase of 23%. Five-hundred ideas for new projects were elaborated, 30 of which were strategically studied by the Study Center for Industrial Prospective (CEPI). 51 projects have been realized thus far.

Projects studied where investment has reached 5 Million Tunisian Dinars for the first 8 months after the revolution, gave the following statistics:

2.7 global investments

24.3 % of industries focused on exports

25.5 % with foreign investments

7.3 % with regional development investments

Other sectors have been harmed, such as the leather and shoe industry regressing by 50%, as well as the textile industry.

The number of projects benefiting from government aid for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) from 95 has decreased to 89 in the last 8 months. These projects will still create 2,339 jobs. The government’s contribution has reached 17 million Dinars.

Investments in the services sector has witnessed a declaration of 542 projects for an amount of 54 Million Dinars and providing 2,591 jobs.

The Tunisian Agency for Promotion of Industry (API) is still considering the creation of projects and jobs as a mission to be fulfilled. Now, it has 5 missions: application of  incentive code for investments by providing offices studying ideas and strategies , encouraging foreign collaborations and investments, assuring the management of the Tunisian Bank of Industrial Data to provide surveys and statistics, elaborating sectors and regional studies and promoting innovation.

Concerning regional development, API is working in collaboration with the Center for Promotion of Exportation (CEPEX) encouraging small and medium-seized enterprises on both a national and international level.

Source: La Presse

 

Today is October 5th, 2011 and there remain 18 more days until the elections of the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia.

However, ISIE (the High Independent Authority for the Elections) hasn’t processed, yet, key elements of the electoral process such as allocating potential voters to polling stations or announcing publicly the system that will regulate the tabulation of the voting results. ISIE has also left a short period of accreditation for both journalists and domestic observers as most of them are still undergoing some training to meet ISIE’s requirements about the matter.

When it comes to other ISIE requirements such as gender parity in the list, which number 1,428, only 20% of these lists are currently led by women. Independent’s lists also represent a good proportion of these lists, with 41% of the total comprised of 587 lists, while coalitions count for 54 lists. Another interesting fact about lists is that less than 10 parties are represented in all the polling stations all across Tunisia and abroad; polling districts are spread out across Tunisia in each governorate with the exception of Tunis and Sfax, which will host two. Other polling stations are in spread across Europe, the Arab world, the Americas and in the rest of the world.

To organize the electoral process, ISIE adopted, last month, two codes of conduct. The first is to organize the electoral campaigning between the different parties and independent candidates, and the other to organize the media coverage of the elections, knowing that it is Tunisia’s first free democratic elections. The two codes of conduct are supposed to create an environment for honest competition between the candidates.

One of the codes of conduct aims to supply the journalists with clear rules and clarification to guarantee a transparent and democratic coverage of the elections to ensure that media coverage does not lead to extreme tension between the candidates. However, on an issue released on the earliest days of this month, ISIE appears to be questioning prohibiting electronic press, a source of news that has been empowered since the revolution of January 14th, from covering the elections.

ISIE claims that digital journalists do not meet the requirements as their fellows of the other more traditional media outlets to cover the elections, for which it requires a professional certificate or a membership to the Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists. Such decree-laws will prohibit hundreds of journalists and web based news-writing emerging websites from providing coverage of the elections.

Another law established by ISIE in the same month was the ban of political advertising which started officially on September 12th. However, as it was  missing consistent sanction laws, the decree-law was challenged by the temerity of some parties such as the Progressive Democratic Party, locally known as PDP, and the emerging Free Patriotic Union, or UPL. These parties debated the legitimacy of such a decree-law to prevent them from advertising, especially considering that most of the parties have already invested their money on public banners in streets and other deals with various media outlets.

ISIE, here, is often blamed for leaving a short span for parties to cope with such amendment of the law. It appears that ISIE’s last minute decree-law to ban political advertising did not serve the named parties’ interests because it left them little time to come up with alternative solutions. Eventually, UPL reported ceasing its political advertising campaign on September 20th. When it came to other parties that followed UPL, the advertising was often stopped by locals and that know much about ISIE’s new amendments and refused to let themselves indoctrinated by their proposals. Al-Muharrer newspaper reported that one such incident happened in Gabes where UPL’s billboard were brought down and teared up by angry protesters.

Although there are many volunteer domestic observers still-in-training for to assist the elections, ISIE has moved the deadline for the accreditation from October 19th to October 8th, which gives less time to train the observers to help through this electoral process.

Four hundred doctors who belong to regional and local polyclinics of the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) and the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM) launched a strike yesterday, October the 4th. They demand total integration into the social security system and sixteen salary payments per year rather than thirteen.

The doctors present their strike as a reaction against the authorities’ failure to sign the agreement negotiated on August 9th between the doctors and the general social security trade union representatives. The agreement would apply articles 84 and 86 of the social security code concerned with supplying performance payments for doctors, dentists, and pharmacists.

Mrs. Neyla Tayyach, secretary-general of the Basic Trade Union of Doctors, wants to clarify that they only resorted to a strike after all attempts for an amicable settlement failed. Friday, September 30th, senior medical staff put on the red armband, and when the authorities did not submit to sign the convention, the doctors declared an open-ended strike. Tayyach also emphasized that the strike does not include all the medical sectors in the polyclinics; they are following the humanitarian role and principle of medicine.

An official commission has been created to consider the doctor’s demands and find a settlement.

Source: Assabah, Le Temps

Foreign media and bloggers in the meeting in Tunis.

Arab Bloggers chose la Cite des Sciences, Ariana, north of Tunis, to host their third annual Arab Bloggers Meeting in the presence of Tunisian and foreign media. The opening ceremony was open to the public. Malek Khadraoui and Sami Ben Gharbia, the organizers of the meeting,  greeted the audience, and Ben Gharbia opened the meeting with an overview. Tunisia, he explained, was chosen as the meeting’s location because it was the first country of the Arab Spring.

Georgia Poppelwell, managing director of Global Voices, highlighted the role of citizen media in giving a voice to young Arabs in the Arab uprisings and praised Arab bloggers for their courageous activism. Rebecca McKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices opened a discussion entitled Fitting of Our Digital Rights: Threats and Opportunities. She presented Riadh Guerfeli, alias Astrubal, the founder of Nawaat.org website, and his promotional video by Apple Computers on how technology brings down dictators. In the Tunisian context, McKinnon stressed the relationship between citizens and the government mediated by the internet. She also gave a historical overview of the use of internet to democratize  societies during democratic transitions in countries like South Korea and Russia. She emphasized engaging in activism with no fear of online policing. Governments’ inability to control the controversial effects of online platforms such as Facebook and Wikileaks are features of the challenges of democracy in the Internet age.

Laila Nachawati and the Spanish M15 movement presentation

A discussion circle on the use of Twitter in the Arab revolutions and how activists used this new media to convey young Arab revolutionaries’ message to counter blackouts on Western media in Tunisia and Egypt. By translating tweets in several languages, the revolution was Twitterized. With Mauritanian blogger and activist Nasser Wedady as a moderator of the discussion , panelists included Sultan Al Qassemi from the UAE, Egyptian Manal Hassan, Saudi Ahmed Al Omran, Moroccan Hisham Al Miraat, and Libyan Ghazi Gheblawi and Razan Al Ghazzawi. The group emphasized that they authenticated their tweets to ensure their news was accurate. These tweets became a valuable source of information in their home countries, eventually used by mainstream media. Bloggers agreed that net activism united Arab people, discredited regimes and destroyed language barriers between Arabs.

Moez Chakchouk, CEO of Tunisia’s Internet Agency (ATI), said blogging was essential for the Internet to survive. ATI was connected to the infamous “Ammar 404,” the symbol of censorship during Ben Ali regime. Chakchouk complained that ATI still controls Internet practices and the censorship of certain websites. He revealed technological equipment that was used and tested by ATI for censorship when certain western companies sold censorship software to dictatorial regimes in Arab countries afterwards. Chakchouk declined to name the companies.

The Turkish speaker Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill gave a talk entitled “Beyond Tahrir: Networked Activism in post-Revolutionary Transitions,” asking why regimes remain for decades in “pluralistic ignorance.” Dr. Kufekci argued that the challenges of a post-revolution situation can be daunting, as history has shown. New media technologies played an important role in this period to counter dictatorship and state censorship. Arguing that rich nations lack the participatory impulse, the global challenge of the 21st century is to take inspiration from the Arab revolutions and create a bottom-up process.

Egyptian and Lebanese bloggers discussing Wikileaks and its impact on Arab revolutions

Egyptian and Lebanese bloggers discussing Wikileaks and its impact on Arab revolutions

After lunch, a documentary movie entitled “Zero Silence, a Documentary About the Free Wor(l)d” screened for the second time (premiered in Sweden), featuring players of the Arab revolutions from Tunis to Beirut who used new media to vent their anger at authoritarian regimes. The film received a positive review from the audience, and actors Wael Said and Rebecca Saada discussed the movie with the audience afterwards.

Spanish-Syrian blogger Laila Nachawati presented a snapshot of the impact of the Arab Spring on Europe with a slide show on the Spanish 15M  movement. Drawing on inspiration from the Arab revolution, Spanish youth gathered in the main squares of many Spanish cities, using new media to mob mobilize people against government corruption.

An important highlight of the meeting was the relationship between Tunisian bloggers and politics. Several bloggers who have now become candidates for the Constituent Assembly on independent lists were in attendance, including Amira Yahyaoui, Riadh Guerfali, Mehdi Lamloum, and Tarek Kahlaoui,  as well as Slim Amamou, a member of an organization which gives campaign training to independent candidates. Together they discussed their experience as bloggers turning to politics and the challenges they faced. They argue that an electorate which has become skeptical of parties may look at independent candidates as political alternatives to party politics.

Tunisian bloggers candidate for the Constituent Assembly. From left to right: Riadh Guerfali (Astrubal), Amira Yahyaoui (Mira 404), Tarek Kahlaoui and Slim Amamou (Slim 404).

Wrapping up the first day of the meeting, organizer Sami Ben Gharbia and moderator Jillian York of Global Voices re-traced the Wikileaks saga: the release of the first cables in November 2010, their publication on Nawaat.org under the title “Tunileaks,” and their later publication by Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper. Altogether, the revelations of the leaks had a great impact on speeding up Ben Ali and Mubarak’s eventual fall, even though many were skeptical that it was possible. Gharbia said that he himself was skeptical, but when people take huge risks, courage becomes contagious. Ben Gharbia gave the example of former Tunisian Minister of Interior Farhat Rajhi and whistle-blower police officer Samir Feriani. Both men leaked secrets of the ministry.