Tunisia Announces End to Internet Censorship

The government of Tunisia has declared the formal end to Internet censorship in a country that was once declared an “enemy of the Internet” due to its draconian controls.

Information and Communication Minister Mongi Marzoug made the announcement ahead of the ICT4All conference due to convene in Tunisia Sept. 17-20, which encourages wider access to information and communication technologies.

Before its autocratic ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in January 2011 at the start of the Arab Spring, Tunisia was classified as an “enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders. Even after he was deposed, when access was opened to sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Al Jazeera, some Internet controls remained.

Marzoug declared “the end Ammar 404,” using the nickname locals gave the censorship program, referring to the “404 Not Found” message they often saw when attempting to visit a blocked site.  He also announced the formation of a National Internet Governance Forum to engage civil society in setting Tunisia’s Internet policies.

TechPresident’s WeGov page quotes Google’s Policy Manager for North Africa, Khaled Koubaa, saying that he sees “positive signs” coming from the Tunisia’s government:

One of the key positive sign is the National Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to be organized next year. But to be sure that we will really “end” Internet censorship in Tunisia we will need is to organize this National IGF in a multi-stakeholder way which will help to have a real discussion on key policy change in the actual Internet policies. The big challenge will be to put in place an open and participatory policy making process that will govern the Internet in Tunisia so the ecosystem will naturally reject any tentative of censor back the network. Combatting the censorship should be at the policy and standards level not only at content level. A policy that prohibit usage of a technical standard (like VoIP for example ) is simply censoring the right of users to use the technology to express themselves.

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