Mondher Laabidi is the president of the Internet Society Tunisia Chapter and lead organiser of the Alliance Article 32 project.
Alliance Article 32 is a group of NGOs and public agencies active to promote the Internet, freedom of expression, transparency and social development in Tunisia. The idea of creating this alliance originated from the founders of the Internet Society Tunisia Chapter, with the objective to assemble all stakeholders interested in defending the application of Article 32 of the Tunisian Constitution (“The State guarantees the right to information and the right of access to information. The State seeks to guarantee the right of access to communication networks”), adopted by the Constitutional Assembly in 2014. Important local and regional NGOs joined the creation of the Alliance since its inception, including Article 19 Tunisia and I Watch. The role of our Chapter is to consolidate the Alliance and coordinate its activity in this second phase that began with its offical launch in July 30th 2015. The support of the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Program was also instrumental to take the project forward.
Tell us about a key project you are currently working on that deals with the Internet and users’ fundamental rights?
The Alliance Article 32 project is in its second phase. It started with a major conference that brought to discussion and debate the importance of executing the Article 32 of the Constitution which says that “The State guarantees the right to information and the right to access to information. The State seeks to guarantee the right of access to communication networks”.
In this second phase, our Chapter prepared a capacity building program that promotes access to information and to networks. Our work has reached Parliament members that were leading the adoption of the Access to Information Law in March 2016, considered by different observers as encouraging and important to the application of the Article 32 of the Constitution.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for user empowerment and rights online in the future?
The Tunisian Constitution is the only Constitution worldwide that includes wording that guarantees access to “networks”. The new information law is another step toward empowering the Internet user and its rights to access to network and to information flows.
All those measures are encouraging our Chapter to continue its outreach work. We will target first the general public and then information technology professionals who are key stakeholders in this issue.
What do you consider as the most pressing threats?
The most important threat from this project’s perspective is that the law will not be excuted as it is supposed to. We are currently noticing that in some regions, people are facing diffculties to demand and obtain information from some governmental agencies who ignore the existence of the law and/or ignore internal memos from their Ministries asking them to excute it. We still have a lot work to do to promote the importance of Article 32 and the Information Law.
How can people engage with your organisation and projects?
We count hugely on the civic awareness of our very active community that is sensible to transparency, to open government and to the right to access for everyone. Our project has already resonated in the public space, through information professionals, journalists and bloggers who share our objectives and who support our activities.
Find out more about the work the Internet Society is doing on human rights by visiting our Internet and Human Rights Resource Centre.
Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.