At least, this is the conclusion that we reached in my office during an impromptu venting on Tunisia’s censorship.
But it has a dark side, one which rarely surfaces in response to external presences (except in this instance) and is covered even less in the wider media.
Tunisia is like a charming wife-beater: by day it flits winsomely winking and flattering, oozing progress through symposiums on the promotion of the Internet and galvanizing the youth to go online.
By night its wrath is unbridled and its fists of censorship free to flail, with bloggers daily confronting harassment, beatings and in certain cases imprisonment.
Which is why the publication of the Human Rights Watch report, ‘A Larger Prison: Repression of Former Political Prisoners in Tunisia‘ provides a brave and much-needed peek beneath the underbelly of the über-chic state.
Quite why the abrogation of free speech (amongst other transgressions) has failed to stimulate interest is open to interpretation, though the following quip hints most cogently:
Tunisia has been criticized for its human rights record by a number of international organizations, but maintains close economic and intelligence ties with most Western countries, including the United States. [Source]
Perhaps it would be facile to brandish the notion that to be a friend of the West is tantamount to a get-out-of-jail-free card on human rights abuses.
But realistically, it is most likely true.
In which case, we can only be thankful for human rights organizations and the blogosphere.
It’s the only way these cases will ever garner the attention they deserve.