Media Censorship in Tunisia

Below are some of the media power players involved in mobiliizing the Tunisian masses. Many if not most of these actors have been targeted by the Ben Ali regime and imprisoned for their courage to speak out. Many remain imprisoned even as the regime has been overturned, and the transitional government has yet to address public grievances against the state censorship apparatus. More information about media and internet censorship can be found in the statements issued by Reporters without Borders under their Tunisia Profile.

Pre-revolution Media Censorship
Tunisia's internal media appartatus is largely composed on state-run media which acts as a mouthpiece for the Ben Ali regime. Those who have attempted to run an independent press that was critical of the regimepay a high price for doing so, suffering phone, fax and internet service cuts, confiscation of passports, bans on leaving the country, police surveillance, intimidation, physical assault and most recently imprisonment” (Reporters without Borders). In the Prezi below, you will encounter names like Siham ben Sedrine, editor of El Kalima who's media headquarters were occupied by Ben Ali's police forces for threatening the stability of the state.

The Interior Ministry is also the head behind heavy online censorship. "Ammar 404" has become a popular reference and hashtag alluding to the default page to which users are redirected when they encounter state-censored websites. Any material critical of the regime whether it was editorial, news, or artistic - was subject to state censorship. The Agence Tunisienne d’Internet (ATI) is comprised of about 600 engineers who are constantly spying communications and filtering out potentially threatening content. Cybernet cafes are closely monitored and identities are held on record by the Interior Ministry. File sharing sites such as Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo and Flickr are regularly blocked in Tunisia to prevent instances of police brutality and corruption from leaking outside the country. In August 2008, the regime attempted to block Facebook for two weeks, but the backlash was more of a headache than it was worth, as it appeared to the regime.

Ben Ali instituted a harsh media crackdown after his 're-election' in 2009, prosecuting and detaining at least 10 independent journalists on trumped up and fabricated charges.

Media Crackdown during the Revolution

The number of websites blocked in the outbreak of events in Sidi Bouzid doubled. Hundreds of Facebook pages were taken down, reports in the foreign press about what was going on was blocked including pieces in Al Jazeera,  French24, Le Monde, and others. Foreign journalists were prevented access from entering the country, and thus began the spread of information via social media sites.

In this situation, Activists were targeted via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and online sharing sites. Accounts were hacked and usernames promptly entered the Interior Ministry’s records. On January 6th, the regime arrested prominent bloggers throughout the country and detained them in local prisons as well as the Interior Ministry headquarters. Some of their stories are listed in the slideshow below.