A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Blogger Down: Nous sommes tous Fatma

I don't like posting Sundays, but there's another Blogger down.

The Streisand effect is kicking in again. Another Blogger has been arrested, this time in Tunisia. Her blog, known as Fatma Arabicca, was at this address, which now brings up a "blog not found" response from Blogger. There's now a Facebook group in support of her, and apparently a different one here, and a lot of attention in the Francophone and Arabophone blogosphere. One of the accusations against her is that she is also secretly behind the blog Debat Tunisie, which has some pretty biting cartoons about the recent elections; it is still online. And there's a logo for blogs and support groups (at top left; right click to download; I'm sure no one will object to your posting it).

You may recall that one of the problems with the Streisand effect is that it calls attention to what might otherwise be a minor story, as in my earlier post in which the suspension of a Moroccan newspaper for reporting on the King's health raised a lot more questions about the King's health than did the original story in a publication I'd never heard of.

I'd also never heard of Fatma Riahi before, or of her blog, or certainly not of the scurrilous cartoons at Debat Tunisie (let me repeat that link: Debat Tunisie). It really is scurrilous: it runs anti-government cartoons like the one on the right. (Which, if I continued never to hear of it, most of you never would have seen.)

I would (of course) never reproduce such an insulting cartoon except as an illustration of a news development. Such as the arrest of a blogger. But Debat Tunisie does. I'm sure you'd never heard of it till now, right? I hadn't. (Oh, I'm starting to repeat myself: sorry, that's Debat Tunisie.) I'm pretty sure authoritarian states just don't get the Internet. You know I rather like Tunisia as a country; I've blogged on that, and I take none of it back. But I still think you should have a right, and Tunisians should have a right, to read a site like Debat Tunisie.

Have I mentioned Debat Tunisie?

Now, I have no idea if Fatma is behind Debat Tunisie, but I know that as a blogger I don't like it when bloggers (or journalists) are arrested.

She was apparently arrested on November 2. If she was the only person behind Debat Tunisie, then who posted this cartoon on Debat Tunisie on November 6?

A cartoon which, since it's possible that Debat Tunisie might at some point bring up the "blog not found" that Arabicca now does, I guess I should reproduce for posterity:
The flamingo (I guess, or whatever it is) has a sign in English (I'm not Fatma) while the (not sure: the ground itself?) has one in French saying "We are all Fatma!" I have no idea why two languages (or a flamingo: could it be a stork, pretty common in North Africa?), but I do get one thing: Nous sommes tous Fatma!

See how effective it is to arrest bloggers? I'd never heard of her, or of Debat Tunisie.

Now, you have too. Don't forget the Facebook page. Or the other one.

See how it works now, governments? A whole lot of people outside North African diaspora communities would not have seen those cartoons, or heard of the websites, without the arrest. Now they have. The Internet is the enemy of censorship. Enjoy. You just gave those cartoons a whole new audience. Oh, did I mention Debat Tunisie?

Now let her go please.


Tarek طارق said...

Dear Michael, thanks for the support, and the nice sarcastic post but just few things: a-Fatma was "kept in custody" (following her lawyer's description) since Nov 3d not 2nd and she was freed Saturday (yet we're not sure if she'd be interrogated again); b-she is in fact not behind Debat Tunisie (wanted to make sure that you know it); c-there is only one facebook group (one of the links you posted leads to a posted link in the same group). Otherwise yes absolutely: many people would never hear of Fatma or "Z" (Debat Tunisie's author), and that's how it usually works. Again thanks, Tarek

bent 3ayla said...

what was it again??? oh, debat tunisie...
thx for the post!

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Many thanks for the clarifications. I missed the fact that one of the Facebook links was a post on the other.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Collins Dunn said...

Just adding a clarification since the fourth comment was removed: it had nothing to do with Fatma or Tunisia, and was a purely commercial spam message. I don't censor relevant comments, just spam.