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Censored Tunisian Blogger Leaves Detainment, Enters Parliament

slim amamou
Political censorship by oppressive regimes often results in murky facts being distributed on an international scale. Dissidents and citizen journalists -- the important voices who are responsible for reporting on the ground -- frequently end up in Big Brother-style detention. Yet, this week in Tunisia, a unique scene played out, indicating the changing shape of political activism and, perhaps, modern warfare. Just several days ago, blogger Slim Amamou, CEO of a Web development company who helped organize TED talks in Tunisia last year, found himself detained and tormented on behalf of Tunisia's president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. On Tuesday, only a short time after Ben Ali fled the country, Amamou was sworn in as the interim minister for youth and sport, assisting other cabinet members in understanding and embracing media like Facebook and Twitter.

In terms of the political factors that usually lead to implosions, Tunisia is not a country that was ripe for revolution; it has a high GDP and literacy rate, a technologically advanced populace with access to cell phones and video equipment, and a vibrant middle class. Yet, it has also suffered from an overbearing regime, in which plainclothes police routinely rounded up and tortured dissenters, ranging from Amamou to the street vendor who immolated himself in December. Amamou, who is a member of the Swedish-inspired Pirate party, helped circulate information underneath an incredibly complex and advanced Internet censorship program led by the government. Two weeks ago, he was arrested, alerting his friends by turning on his phone and accessing Google Latitude. Though he had already been in trouble last May over censorship, this time he was detained, and told that the moans he heard from adjacent rooms were those of his family being tortured. "It was psychologically very hard," he reportedly told French station Public Senate. "We were deprived of sleep we were handcuffed seated on a chair for five days [sic]."

In a strange move that demonstrates the political power an informed, connected citizen can wield, when Amamou was released, he was offered a part in rebuilding the country. His colleagues, wary of his collaboration with senior members of Ben Ali's cabinet, warned him not to accept, but Amamou quickly did. He tweeted to his activist friends, "I don't think so. It's a temporary govt to set up elections. I'm here to watch and report and be part of the decisions. Not here to rule." Regardless of whether or not he will remain active in legitimate government, Amamou's commitment to the free flow of information and his presence in active, Web-savvy communities bodes well for the young politician. His new role hasn't seemed to change him; on his first day in office, Amamou proudly tweeted that, unlike the old guard, he was not wearing a tie.

Tags: blog, blogger, censorship, government, PoliticalDissent, politics, SlimAmamou, SocialNetworking, top, Tunisia, TunisiaPolitics, TunisiaPresidentFlees, TunisiaPresidentResigns, TunisiaProtests