Tunisia: It’s time to build a community to defend our digital rights!

On December 7, 2017 Access Now and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation held an event called “Internet, un espace de liberté?” The gathering was an introduction to digital rights in Tunisia and marked the launch of a series of gatherings we will hold with our partners and friends interested in learning about Tunisia, human rights, and the digital domain.

In Tunisia, as in the rest of the Arab world, digital rights are becoming more relevant to civil society and the struggles we face. Through these gatherings, we hope to increase awareness of the importance of personal data protection, privacy, access to information, and free expression online for everyone. After all, these digital rights are an essential component of universal, fundamental human rights.

Our first speaker was Marwen Dhmayed, an artificial intelligence (AI) specialist. He introduced the topic of digital rights in Tunisia, noting, ”With all the challenges we are facing today, from the over-taxation of internet subscriptions to all the delays on releasing a draft ‘code numerique,’ the community should play its full role in enabling and accelerating changes. We should all remain very critical on that front.”

Over the past five years, we have seen Tunisia take significant steps toward increasing internet access and reversing online censorship. However, adopting a new constitution does not seem to have stopped the judiciary from decisions based on laws from Ben Ali’s era that result in attacks on online expression. Our laws on criminal defamation can be an obstacle to free expression since ambiguities open the door to several restrictions on what we can say.

Student Eya Ammar noted: “Digital rights are basically human rights in the internet era, such as the right to online privacy and freedom of expression. But most digital users  these days, especially teenagers, have no idea about these rights. Others know about them but don’t know how to use them to defend themselves. For example, most users don’t read the terms of service and privacy policies of the applications that they use — they just press ‘Agree’ and start using them. Sometimes, ignoring these steps may lead them to losing their rights, such as a company selling their personal information without their permission.”

How can I get involved?

We and Rosa Luxemburg are planning to continue our collaboration to help you dive deeper into digital rights topics. We will hold gatherings to discuss issues such as the  the draft law on a biometric chip-enabled identity card — which threatens our right to privacy, while also posing significant risks to our digital security — and harassment, hate speech, and violence via social media in the Arab world. These are important issues, with real victims, and we all need to pay attention to what is happening, so we can help make a difference for our community. That is why we’re giving you the chance to take part and share your opinion with others committed to ensuring human rights in the digital age.

Want to know more about this?

If you’re an activist, journalist, student, start-up entrepreneur, or just someone who wants to know more about digital rights, please join us and let’s talk!