One rapper and at least three bloggers known for their online activism and commitment to freedom of speech in Tunisia, have been detained by the police yesterday, January 6.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have identified four arrests so far. And the list may be longer. RSF says that “the bloggers may have been arrested by police for questioning about the hacking of government websites by an online group known as Anonymous.” The group of hacktivists has indeed launched, earlier this week, repeated Distributed Denial-of-Sevice (DDos) attacks against multiple official websites, in a retaliatory move against the government’s targeted phishing operations, aimed at breaking into online activists’ private accounts to harvest their email and Facebook passwords and usernames.
This wave of arrests launched by Ben Ali’s police is a desperate attempt to silence online activists, and comes as the regime seems to be loosing a bitter cyberwar it helped ignite in the first place.
The list of people believed to have been arrested so far:
– Slim Amamou: a friend of mine, whom I met in Beirut in December 2009. He’s one of the most prominent and most recognizable Tunisian bloggers. A tech entrepreneur, he is known for his indefatigable support for freedom of speech in Tunisia. Slim was detained earlier last year along with Yassine Ayari when they both called for a march against censorship in their country. According to Nawaat.org, “Slim revealed the position of his phone on the FourSquare social network,” shortly after his arrest, allowing his friends to geolocate him at the premises of the Ministry of Interior. Here is Slim, speaking about Anonymous at TEDx Carthage last September.
An this is an interview Slim gave to NPR just hours before he was arrested.
– Azyz Amami: a blogger from Tunis who covered the protests on his blog (http://azyz404.blogspot.com/) and Facebook page, both of which are currently inaccessible.
– Hamada Ben Amor: a young rapper, known as El General, from the southern city of Sfax. Many believe it was the rapper’s song, “President, Your People Have Died,” that prompted the regime to arrest him. In it, he openly denounces state corruption and, addressing Ben Ali, he says: “Mr President, today I speak to you in my name and in the name of all the people who live in suffering and pain. This is 2011 and yet, there are people who die in hunger, while others still look for a job to survive. But their voices are unheard…” Here’s a video clip that, as my friend Weddady rightly pointed out, you will not see on MTV:
– Hamadi Kaloutcha: an active online activist from Tunis. According to RSF, he was “arrested early in the morning by police officers in plainclothes. His laptop and a CPU were also seized. The police have told his wife they were taking him to the nearest police station, they had ‘only a few questions to ask him’ and that ‘it would take only a few hours.’ There is still no news about him.”