- Freedom of expression groups and media organisations today, at the conclusion of the second phase of the scandalous UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), called for a full investigation by the UN into attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that took place in Tunisia during the summit. "Never again Tunisia," organisations concluded.
The protests were formulated by Steve Buckley, Chair of the Tunisian Monitoring Group (TMG) of freedom of expression organisations. The TMG groups 14 international organisations, including the world press and journalists. Mr Buckley said that "never again should a UN world summit be held in a country that does not respect its international commitments to human rights and freedom of expression.
The many organisations behind TMG had been directly affected by the total lack of freedom of expression in Tunisia, being important stakeholders. The WSIS was to hold serious discussions on the information society, including issues of the press, Internet and freedom of expression, but several organisations were directly hindered from making statements at the UN summit due to Tunisian officials.
"This week in Tunis, both inside and outside the official Summit, we have witnessed serious attacks on the right to freedom of expression including harassment of delegates, attacks on Tunisian and international journalists and human rights defenders, denial of entry to the country, the blocking of websites, the censorship of documents and speeches, and the prevention and disruption of meetings," said Mr Buckley.
In the face of these attacks, it was "with relief that we acknowledge the reaffirmation of human rights principles and the right to freedom of expression that is contained in the Tunis Commitment of the WSIS," the TMG chair and spokesman added.
On 30 September, 37 governments had called on Tunisia to make the WSIS a "Summit in Tunisia, not a Summit on Tunisia". This week's events had however put the spotlight not only on Tunisia but also on the central importance of human rights and freedom of expression in the information society throughout the world.
"We call on all stakeholders to ensure that human rights and freedom of expression is mainstreamed into all follow-up mechanisms including the Internet Governance Forum and we commit ourselves to working towards that objective," the TMG said, concluding the failed summit.
This week has also reminded the world of the courage of those who speak out in the face of repression and censorship in Tunisia. International groups made many new contacts with brave defenders of human rights in Tunisia, and guaranteed them continued support and monitoring even after the summit. These guarantees today led a group of Tunisian human rights defenders to end their hunger strike.
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