16 November 2005


Human rights solidarity action by international civil society organisations: Cancellation of several civil society side events on 15 November 2005

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(AMARC/IPA/IFEX) - The following is a 15 November 2005 press release circulated by AMARC and IPA on behalf of the Citizens' Summit on the Information Society:

Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS)
Tunis, November 16-18, 2005

Human rights solidarity action by international civil society organisations: Cancellation of several civil society side events on November 15, 2005

In the light of events that occurred in Tunis in the last week several international civil society organisations are cancelling their side events at the WSIS on November 15, 2005. This action was not planned in advance and is a direct response to the abnormal circumstances in which the Tunis Summit is taking place.

While the final PrepCom was taking place inside the heavily secured conference and exhibition centre, human rights advocates and journalists were being harrassed and even physically harmed on the streets of Tunis. Several websites, including the site of a WSIS side event, the Citizens Summit on the Information Society, were blocked from access inside Tunisia; and civil society organisations were prevented from holding small working meetings in central Tunis.

During PrepCom III in Geneva in September 2005, a coalition of 19 organisations, consisting of international and national Tunisian NGOs, agreed to hold a Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) as a side event to the WSIS in Tunis.

The CSIS would be another milestone in the long tradition of UN conferences being complemented with events organised by citizens groups. It would also complement the wide range of other side-events taking place at many different venues in Tunis during the Summit.

A preparatory meeting for CSIS was planned for Monday November 14th at the Goethe Insititute in Tunis. Tunisian authorities prevented the meeting from proceeding by blocking access to the Goethe Institute and physically forcing people away from the building. During this process several people delegates were insulted and violently beaten.

CSIS organising has been difficult since PrepCom III where planning meetings in Geneva were similarily disrupted. In Tunis confirmed, pre-paid bookings for the venue were cancelled due to pressure from the authorities. As of the night of 14 November the CSIS website has been blocked inside Tunisia, with the exception of the media centre inside the Kram. This solidarity action to cancel our side events on November 15 is intended to:

- express our solidarity with the many Tunisian individuals and organisations whose basic human rights are routinely being violated
- encourage all delegates at the WSIS to raise the issue of human rights violations in Tunis with their national delegations. These violations were clearly documented prior to the Summit by the IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (International Freedom of Expression) http://campaigns.ifex.org/tmg/- be a firm reminder to everyone that the goals of the WSIS cannot be achieved without respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, association and opinion, as outlined in paragraph 1 of the Geneva declaration
- suggest that in future the United Nations gives careful consideration to hosting events of this nature in countries where the necessary preconditions for people meeting and working together peacefully do not exist

Members of the Citizens Summit on the Information Society coordinating group


World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
705, rue Bourget, bureau 100
Montreal, Quebec H4C 2M6
secgen (@) si.amarc.org
Fax:+1 514 849 7129

IFEX members working in this country 1

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