Message from the Tunisian Hunger Strikers to the World Summit on the Information Society

Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations

As representatives of political parties and civil society associations, on hunger strike for rights and freedoms in Tunisia, we welcome you and wish you success in your work.

It is a great honour for us that the international community chose Tunisia to host a world conference concerning the great problems presented by the development of new technologies, such as the digital divide between nations of the North and those of the South and the governance of the Internet on a world scale.

The bridging of the digital divide poses problems not only of a financial nature. The Declaration of Principles and the Action Plan of the first WSIS phase do not fail to underline the importance of freedom of expression and opinion such as the role of television and broadcasting in reducing this divide. Nor do they fail to insist on the imperative of open access to all levels of information technologies in the struggle against poverty, ignorance and under-development.

In this regard we would like to inform you that we have been observing a hunger strike for thirty days in order to reclaim three fundamental objectives: freedom of association, freedom of the press and the liberation of political prisoners. The Internet is censored, the media are monopolized by a party in power for the past 50 years; the constitution of parties and associations, as well as newspaper publishing, are subject to the discretion of the Minister of the Interior. No effective judicial control exists in a country where judicial power itself is submissive to the executive power. It is not surprising in these conditions that thousands of political prisoners, of every tendency, have known the pangs of torture, imprisonment and ill treatment. Hundreds of them languish in prisons, exposed to the most inhuman treatment and without hope of seeing their martyrdom coming to an end for many long years.

The United Nations has not ceased to draw the attention of the Tunisian government concerning the deplorable state in which Tunisia is confined, a country that is peaceful, open to liberal traditions and whose elites enjoy a high level of education and culture. This situation is not only prejudicial to human dignity, it is also contrary to the imperatives of good governance. It constitutes, for this reason, the principle obstacle to the pursuit of our economic and social progress in a globalized world where competition and human intelligence represent the principle source of wealth and progress.

Mr. Secretary General,

We consider the first condition for the success of your work and for the acceptance of your programmes rests in harmonizing words and actions. Our wish is to see you link beautiful declarations concerning the intention to adopt concrete measures to effectively reduce the digital divide with an obligation for States which still do not respect human rights to honour their international commitments and to guarantee to their citizens fundamental freedoms and rights, written in their own constitutions. Democracy is not a mere matter of internal politics but an imperative of stability, peace and international cooperation.

In repeating our sincere wishes of success, please accept, Mr. Secretary General, our respectful greetings.

Tunis, November 16, 2005

The hunger strikers:

Ahmed N jib Chebbi: Secretary General of the Progressive Democratic Party

Hamma Hammami: spokesperson of the Communist Workers Party of Tunisia

Abderraouf Ayadi: Vice-president of the Congress for the Republic

Lotfi Hajji: President, Union of Tunisian Journalists

Ayachi Hammami: President of the Mohammed Abbou Support Committee and Secretary General of the Tunis section of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights

Samir Dilou: member of the board of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners

Mokhtar Yahyaoui: Judge and president of the Tunisian Centre for Judicial Independence

Mohamme Nouri: President, International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners