JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 17 December 2003
APC’s partner IPS (InterPress Service) sent a letter of complaint to the Secretary General of the ITU (organisers of last week’s World Summit on the Information Society) following the removal of many hundreds of their independent newspapers, Terra Viva, by Tunisians trying to suppress criticism of their government. The same people were disrupting meetings critical of the Tunisian human rights record, including the World Forum on Communication Rights which also took place last week in Geneva.
" If this is just a foretaste of what civil society and free speech can expect at Tunis, then we are in for a struggle, " said Seán Ó Siochrú, one of the organisers of the WFCR in reference to the fact that Tunisia is the host for the next information society summit in 2005. "We should also not forget the appalling
and frankly ridiculous actions of ‘security’ at the Summit last week in confiscating materials such as leaflets and posters critical of the Summit and associated with the peaceful activities outside. "
Letter from IPS follows :
Geneva, December 11, 2003
Union internationale des télécommunications
Place des Nations
Dear Mr Utsumi,
I am writing to complain about the obstacles we have been facing in distributing our paper, TerraViva, in the WSIS.
TerraViva conference daily is an independent publication of IPS international news agency. This edition is being produced jointly by IPS, Infosud from Switzerland and AWCIS from Kenya. IPS enjoys NGO consultative status (Cathegory I) with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
On Tuesday, a woman who identified herself as a Tunisian architect, and others, took away packs of copies of the paper (we estimate that at least 1,000 copies disappeared); two women were later spotted by our European Coordinator, Ramesh Jaura, taking away hundreds of copies in plastic bags. They started shouting when asked what they were doing. None of them gave their names. On Wednesday, two Tunisians-they did not hide the fact-tried to carry off dozens of papers, and were stopped by one of our colleagues. We could only distribute limited copies of the paper. On Thursday, several members of our team who were distributing the paper were approached by Tunisians trying to snatch packs of papers.
The summit security has not allowed us to distribute the paper in normal conditions, unlike in previous summits. The people in charge of ITU distribution desk were reluctant to help.
Although the Tunisian authorities have been given opportunities to express their point of view in our paper, they did not talk to us until today. Our coverage of the situation in Tunisia is far from complacent, and we suspect that our journalism is the reason for these efforts to suppress the distribution of independent information inside the summit. This is unacceptable in a summit dedicated precisely to information.
I would like to ask the co-operation of summit security in facilitating the distribution of the paper on Thursday and Friday.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Editor in Chief
Inter Press Service (IPS)
Via Panisperna 207
Ambassador Habib Mansour
Missionn de Tunisie auprès de l’ONU
Rue de Moillebeau 58
Case postale 272
1211 Genève 19
Tel. +41 22 / 734 84 50 / 59
Fax +41 22 / 734 06 63
Ambassadeur Daniel Stauffacher
Bureau du Délégué du Conseil fédéral suisse pour le Sommet mondial sur la société de l’information, Genève 2003
Rue de Varembé 9-11, case postale 125
1211 Genève 20