A strong woman, ambitious and of high will. A blogger and human rights defender, believing in freedom and raising the voice of truth. On January 27th, Lina Ben Mhenni passed away at the age of 36, after a long struggle with a rare illness that she had been suffering from for several years. In honor of her contributions to human rights, we share some of her accomplishments in defending freedom of expression and fighting against internet censorship:
Lina was a university professor who completed her education in Tunisia and the United States. She was widely known for her blog “A Tunisian Girl,” which was blocked before the Tunisian revolution for her reporting on news from the uprising and photos documenting protests.
As an activist, she campaigned for the release of students arrested under former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and fought back against censorship and website blocking. Lina was an important element in the #Sayyeb_Salah campaign organizing a demonstration against the dictatorship’s censorship of the internet in Tunisia. She continued her active role after the revolution, and her struggle for freedom of expression was not confined to the internet. It included many topics such as the #Winou_Edwa campaign for expanding access to medicine, the #Manich_Msemah campaign against corruption, and other issues in which she left her own mark.
“Our freedom of expression is in real danger. I am afraid that we are losing the unique fruits of the revolution: the disappearance of fear and our freedom of speech. We have to keep on fighting to protect and preserve this right.” — Lina Ben Mhenni, 2013 interview
In 2011, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She received the Shawn McBride Award from the International Peace Bureau in 2012, along with many other awards, including the DW Award for Best Blogger in the World for her work to provide, despite the media blackout, a realistic picture of the events and conditions that the country was suffering from during the era of dictator Ben Ali.
Access Now expresses its deepest condolences to Lina’s family, to her extended family in civil society, and to all of Tunisia.
Lina was the voice of freedom of expression and the spirit of civil society in Tunisia. History will remember her for her contributions to Tunisia’s democratic transition, which continues on to this day.
Rest in peace, Lina Ben Mhenni.