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  • 01.18.11

Tunisian Blogger Becomes Cabinet Member

One of Tunisia’s best known bloggers, a member of the pro-network neutrality Pirate Party, was named a cabinet member in Tunisia’s new government.

Tunisian Blogger Becomes Cabinet Member

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.

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Slim
Amamou
, a 33-year-old Tunisian blogger and free speech activist,
is
the country’s new Secretary of Youth and Sport
.

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.

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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
.

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Video