ZeroPaid has just learned that multiple web activists and members of the Pirate Party have been arrested in the midst of free speech protests in Tunisia recently. The arrests come as the war over free speech heating up in the country.
In the midst of the Tunisian government crackdown on online dissent, multiple members of the Pirate Party, along with free speech activists within the country, have been arrested. Al Jazeera recently profiled the online wars detailing some activists being hit with phishing sites, hacking and government censorship.
According to the report, back in April last year, over 100 blogs have been censored by the government. On Monday, some activists were locked out of their Gmail and Facebook accounts. Activists blamed the Tunisian Internet Agency for the hijacking.
“I think it is high time for Facebook and Google to take serious steps to protect Tunisian activists and journalists,” Sofiene Chourabi, a journalist for Al-Tariq al-Jadid magazine and blogger told Al Jazeera.
“My personal account on the Facebook, including around 4200 friends, was exposed to failed hacking attempt last Friday, but I quickly recovered it after an unidentified person had taken control of it,” he said.
Stefano Hesse, Facebook’s head of communications, said that they were not censoring any content.
“One thing needs to be clear: we, as Facebook, are not censoring any content, and we had not been approached by the local government in order to do anything regarding anyone,” Hesse said.
While a few may be recovering their content, others appear to not be so lucky:
Another activist who was caught in the phishing campaign is a Tunis-based man, who goes by the name of Azyz Amamy in the online world.
Amamy told Al Jazeera in a phone interview that his Facebook and email accounts had been hijacked on Monday. Amamy was able to recover both accounts within two hours, after Facebook and Gmail responded to his request. The difference is that he had retained control of a separate email account with which he had registered both accounts.
Two hours was enough time for the authorities to get the login information for his four blogs from his email accounts, deleting all the content.
Now, we’re learning today, that things have escalated. Shortly after these interviews were conducted, a number of Pirate Party members and online activists were arrested.
Pirate Party International issued a press release on the issue:
On the 6th of January 2011, blogger and activist Hamadi Kaloutcha, and rapper “El General” (real name: Hamada Ben Aoun) were arrested by the police for questioning. Later that day, Azyz Ammami, Slim Amamou and Slah Eddine Kchouk, graduate students and members of the Pirate Party of Tunisia were also arrested. To date, no formal arrest warrant has been filed against them and there has not been any news regarding their current situation.
Pirate Parties from around the world condemned these arrests, saying that the actions of the Tunisian government were deplorable.
Pirate Parties around the World condemn these acts against freedom of expression, human rights and democracy, and call upon governments take firm action against Tunisia for these recent events. Party members are advised to refrain from visiting Tunisia until the human rights situation has improved.
What will no doubt be interesting is how world governments will react to these latest events. Will these governments take action against Tunisia for these arrests or will they stand by silently? It’s hard to say at this point.