World Summit on the Information Society ends in Tunisia

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

The World Summit on the Information Society, organized by the International Telecommunication Union, concluded on Friday evening, November 18th, in Tunis, the capital of the north African nation of Tunisia. The event's organizers intended for the event to "put into motion" the plan for Internet financing and governance developed at the 2003 WSIS summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

The summit was marred by criticism of Tunisia for allowing attacks on journalists and human rights defenders to occur in the days leading up to the event. A French journalist for "Libération" was stabbed and beaten by unidentified men after he reported on local human rights protesters. A Belgian television crew was harassed and forced to hand over footage of Tunisian dissidents, while local human rights defenders were roughed up and prevented from organising a meeting with international civil society groups. A representative from the French media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Robert Menard, was prevented from disembarking from his Air France flight to Tunis to attend the summit.

Expression Under Repression panel at WSIS in Tunis.
Source: Rebecca MacKinnon

During the event, representatives from the Global Voices project were menaced by the Tunisian police as they held their session on "Expression Under Repression." Speaking at the session were Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman, Nart Villeneuve, Taurai Maduna, Isaac Mao, and Hossein Derakshan, among others. The interaction with the Tunisian police is related by Amanda Michel of the Berkman Center with the description from an attendee as, "[B]efore the break, a phalanx of secret police (ie scary guys in dark suits) showed up. [T]hey filled the hall outside the room, forcing cancellation of the break for fear that we'd not be allowed to re-start."

Nicholas Negroponte demonstrated the first working prototype of his $100 laptop.

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