16 November, 2005. Greetings from Tunis, host city of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Today is the official opening of WSIS. However, as much as its business as usual for thousands of delegates debating the future of the Information Society and the proposed outcomes of the Summit, actions by the Tunisian government and security forces continue to raise serious concerns about the suitability of Tunis to host this event.
Security arrangements and the conduct of security forces have had a serious impact on proceedings to date, especially civil society events.
A French journalist was attacked near his hotel in Tunis in the presence of police officers who did not take any action to stop the attack. Preparations for a Citizen’s Summit on the Information Society have been continuously disrupted. Tunisian authorities blocked access to the preparatory meeting site at the Goethe
Institute and physically forced people away from the building. During this
process, several people were insulted and beaten.
In addition, various media and civil society representatives were denied access to Tunisia, while websites which have contained criticism of Tunisia are available to the delegates at the official WSIS venue, but remain blocked and censored in the rest of Tunisia.
These are extremely unfortunate developments taking place in the context of an event discussing measures to ensure the rights, responsibilities and freedoms required to ensure a fair and inclusive global Information Society.
As far as Internet governance is concerned, it seems that government delegates have reached some form of compromise in this regard. The US government will retain overall control for the foreseeable future of the technology that powers the Internet, including the domain name system, root servers and the oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). An Internet Governance Forum will be created to discuss and decide upon the over-reaching issues of the Internet, but will not have any oversight powers. Governments have also agreed to work within existing organisations and infrastructures to gradually transform the way the Internet is managed.
It will be interesting to see the general response to this development during the rest of the event.
On my agenda for today is further participation in the Telecentre Leaders Forum this afternoon, as well as other events and presentations. President Thabo Mbeki is due to visit the South African exhibition this afternoon.
Read the South African Civil Society Statement.
Read Past Updates