A FRANCE 24 article censored in Tunisia?

The FRANCE 24 newsroom was alerted to a "page not found" problem by a Tunisian web user this morning. The Aug. 1 article about President Ben Ali appeared to be no longer available in Tunisia. One of our Observers in the country, who confirmed the blockage, tells us about the increasing internet restrictions there.

Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali announced on Wednesday that he will be running for his fifth term in the 2009 elections. 71 years old, Ben Ali has been ruling the country for over 20 years. In the last election, in 2004, he received 94% of the vote.

Following the announcement of his candidacy, the FRANCE 24 editorial team published an article on the website entitled "Ben Ali en quête d'un nouveau bail à Carthage" (Ben Ali to seek fifth term as Tunisian president). This is the article that is now "not found" inside Tunisia; the rest of the FRANCE 24 site is still accessible. (You can read the English version of the article here). The blockage is not surprising, says our Observer; censoring online information is common.


The article in question

The original page on 8 August 08.


The same URL tried in Tunisia on the same day.

"It’s getting worse and worse – each day new blogs are closed down"

Mokhtar Yahyaoui is a former Tunisian judge. He's been living under police surveillance since he publicly criticised Ben Ali.

The article was available for a few days as I read it on the site. I also put it on my blog, but as often happens, the link was censored by the authorities. It's getting worse and worse - each day new blogs are closed down. Things have been particularly strict in the past few days, with anything slightly critical of the government getting censored.

This week also saw the trial of four Bizerte activists who protested against Ben Ali as "president for life" on national day. That added extra pressure. There was an enormous amount of ID checks, roadblocks and people getting beaten up. And the omnipresence of online censorship was a way to get the message across that people should keep quiet. They've given us a double dose to scare us.

On top of that, Ben Ali announced that he'd be running for president again. He's trying to instil some calm as not everyone is happy about that here. The authorities are quite aware that people are getting frustrated. With the constant price increases the risk of social rebellion is high. People have started to write things on blog that never would have been before. And the censors are quick to answer them."

The comment that alerted the FRANCE 24 webdesk

The message reads: "The Tunisan web is still highly censured. Trying to open this article in Tunisa results in a 404 error. You need a new proxy to be able to see it - I think that says a lot."



Is is well known that there's no freedom of the press over there, but it seems now that even the people are subjected to censorship. I feel sorry for the nice people of Tunisia, but who cares ? No President around the world will bring up this upsetting topic since it doesn't involve any economic issue with Tunisia. I'm glad that France24.com is not censored in China yet, such as the website of my favorite rugby team in Toulouse, France (don't ask me why !!). Finally, proxies are very good tools for broadcasting freedom.

Welcome to Tunisia!

Welcome to Tunisia!