Women's Statement on Tunisian Human Rights Situation

We, women’s organisations, individuals and networks gathered in Tunis for Phase
II of the World Summit on the Information Society, denounce blatant violations
of human rights, freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of
assembly by the Tunisian government.

On November 12th 2005, correspondent Christophe Boltanski of the French daily
Libération who previously reported the on-going hunger strike of Tunisian
political prisoners, was beaten and stabbed by four unidentified assailants
near his hotel in Tunis, in the presence of police officers who did not take
any action to stop the attack.

Preparations for a Citizen’s Summit on the Information Society have been
continuously disrupted and prevented from happening. On November 14th 2005,
Tunisian authorities blocked access to the preparatory meeting site, Goethe
Institute, and physically forced people away from the building. During this
process, several people were insulted and beaten. On the same day, a journalist
from Belgium who was covering the event had his camera confiscated. When the
camera was returned later, the film was missing.

Websites, including the one of the Citizens Summit on the Information Society
(CSIS), have been blocked in all areas in Tunisia except in the computers
inside the official WSIS venue.

These incidents form part of the serious deterioration of freedom of expression
and assembly in Tunisia.

The Tunisia Monitoring Group, a coalition of 14 organisations monitoring freedom
of expression in Tunisia, reported that since January 2005, harassments of
journalists and dissidents, imprisonment of those who articulate criticisms
against the Tunisian government have persisted, and in some cases, escalated.
The independence of judiciary has also been compromised. Essai Belhassen,
Coordinator of the Association of Tunisian Democratic Women (Association
Tunisienne des Femmes Democrates, ATFD), has been consistently obstructed from
participating in WSIS-related meetings and events. Further, information sites
covering WSIS from civil society perspectives, especially those maintained by
Tunisians, have been censored and blocked.

Freedoms of expression, access to information and freedom of assembly are
integral to the principles of gender equality and women’s human rights. Human
rights and freedoms, of which women's human rights and freedoms are a central
part, must be located at the core of the information society.

As articulated in Paragraph 4 of the WSIS Declaration, to which the Tunisian
government is a signatory, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and
expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference. We call on the Tunisian government and the international
community to protect and uphold these rights.

We urge a real commitment to the Geneva Declaration of Principles in building an
Information Society that is people-centred, inclusive, participatory, democratic
and development-oriented.

We are outraged and gravely concerned by the impunity demonstrated by the
Tunisian authorities in curtailing the freedoms of expression, access to
information and freedom of assembly.

We demand the Tunisian government to put an end to the human rights violations.
It is intolerable that we are experiencing serious violations of basic human
rights even as we gather here to shape a just and equitable Information
Society.

15 November 2005

Signed:

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) – Women’s International Network
Association of Progressive Communications, Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP)
International Women’s Tribune Centre
European Federation of Older Persons (EURAG) – Europe
Knowledge & Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
Lisa McLaughlin, the focal point for Union for Democratic Communications
Esther Joly
Avri Doria
Network of Feminists Women for Gender Equity in Development (GENERA)
Heike Jensen, Terre des Femmes
IIAV
Iran CSOs Training and Research Center
Publication date: 
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Year of publication: 
2005

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