A prominent blogger and member of the software copyright-focused Pirate Party has just been named to a cabinet post in Tunisia's national unity government. The longtime dictatorship of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown last week by a series of massive street protests.
Just last week, Amamou was being held in government custody. He was one of the prisoners named in Fast Company's prior story on the old Tunisian government's spying on and arresting opposition figures via Gmail and Facebook. Amamou was taken into detention after disclosing his physical location on both Foursquare and Google Latitude.
A 2010 video podcast interview with Amamou is shown below.
Amamou, a prolific Twitter user, announced his appointment via Twitter:
Je suis secrétaire d'état a la Jeunesse et aux sports :) (I am Secretary of State for Youth and Sports :))
While Amamou's appointment is great news for both the new wave of grassroots net activism and for the Pirate Party movement in particular, acclaim for the new position has not been universal.
Another prominent Tunisian cyberactivist, Yassine Ayari, created
a video (Français/العربية
) that directly
criticizes Amamou's decision to join the interim government.
According to a translated excerpt from the video published by Global Voices Online:
Slim, you deserve better that that. The people who offered you that post today, have no legitimacy. They are using you to stifle us, Internet activists.
In an French-language interview with television network France 2, Amamou said that he would quit if the job interfered with his rights to free speech and that the internet played a great part in the protests in Tunisia:
Si mon travail doit empiéter sur ma liberté d'expression, je démissionne […] La plus grande masse des Tunisiens sont sur Facebook. Ils ont permis de lancer des appels à manifester, à protester (...) Sans le net, les gens ne se seraient pas informés, ne se seraient pas mobilisés, et n'auraient pas fait tomber ce gouvernement." (If my work interferes with my freedom of expression, I quit […] Most Tunisians are on Facebook. They have to initiate calls to demonstrate, to protest […] Without the net, people would not have been informed, would not have mobilized and could not bring down the government.)
Regardless of Amamou's duties as Youth and Sports Minister, he has a pressing problem: Keeping his job.
Tunisia's interim government is dangerously unstable as of press time. Caretaker Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who had intimate ties with Ben Ali's old dictatorship, still has a shaky hold on power. Protests and sporadic rioting are still taking place in Tunisia and calls for a general strike are mounting. Shortly before this article went to press, four cabinet members resigned, including the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health.
Follow the author of this article, Neal Ungerleider, on Twitter.