Last updated
Nawaat from the inside Tunisia22.jpg
TypeActivist Organization
HeadquartersTunis, Tunisia
Official language
French, Arabic, English
Key people
Sami Ben Gharbia, Riadh Guerfali, Sufian Guerfali, Malek Khadraoui

Nawaat (Arabic: نواة) is an independent collective blog co-founded by Tunisians Sami Ben Gharbia, Sufian Guerfali and Riadh Guerfali in 2004, with Malek Khadraoui joining the organization in 2006. [1] [2] The goal of Nawaat's founders was to provide a public platform for Tunisian dissident voices and debates. [3] Nawaat aggregates articles, visual media, and other data from a variety of sources to provide a forum for citizen journalists to express their opinions on current events. The site does not receive any donations from political parties. During the events leading to the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, Nawaat advised Internet users in Tunisia and other Arab nations about the dangers of being identified online and offered advice about circumventing censorship. [4] Nawaat is an Arabic word meaning core. Nawaat has received numerous awards from international media organizations in the wake of the Arab Spring wave of revolutions throughout the Middle East and North Africa.



Early Years

Nawaat was co-founded by Sami Ben Gharbia, Sufian Guerfali and Riadh Guerfali. The site went online on April 5, 2004 as a forum for Tunisian citizens and diaspora to be able to express themselves free of censorship from the government of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. [5] Since its launch, the site has posted thousands of print and visual media items focused on human rights, freedom of the press, politics, and culture in Tunisia, primarily through the French and Arabic languages but also frequently with English language contributions. The Ben Ali government established the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) in 1996 to monitor all Internet communications within the borders of Tunisia. [6] Because of Nawaat's frequent challenges to the Tunisian government's restrictions on Internet communications, it became the target of ATI censors shortly after its inception. [2] The OpenNet Initiative survey of 2006-2007 indicated that the Tunisian government was blocking Nawaat and several other dissident sites. [7] ATI would block users' attempts to access Nawaat with Smartfilter software manufactured by the United States company Secure Computing, displaying a standard 404 "File Not Found" error message on their web browsers. [2] Some of Nawaat's earliest contributions focused on election fraud and other forms of disenfranchisement during the re-election of Ben Ali in 2004, which the incumbent won with 94.49% of the popular vote. [8] In addition, Nawaat aggregated a variety of commentaries exploring the role of Islam in government and contemporary relations between Arab nations and the Western world. Nawaat also featured contributions from human rights advocates from the Arab world as well as Iran and other nations with large Muslim populations. The site's staff often wrote opinion pieces castigating Arab governments with harsh censorship laws or promoting anti-censorship initiatives. The editors also called regularly for the release of imprisoned free-speech advocates including Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Abdel Monem Mahmoud.

Coverage of Self-Immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi and Sidi Bouzid Riots

Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, resulting in his eventual death on January 4, 2011. This event catalyzed a series of street protests starting in the town of Sidi Bouzid that became the Tunisian Revolution. Nawaat provided commentary which contextualized the unfolding events and posted numerous articles about the unfolding events, which many Tunisians were able to access via mirror sites and other conduits. [9] [10] Nawaat covered the spread of protests until Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country with his family, posting news stories from international news sources, Arab journalists, and Tunisians inside the country and abroad. The site kept the focus on the underlying causes of the revolution as well, including restrictions on personal freedoms, imprisonment of opposition members, and economic stagnation.


Tunileaks was launched on November 28 on, one hour after the whistle-blowing site Wikileaks unleashed cables on Tunisia. The first release contained 17 cables issued from the US Embassy in Tunisia, and the majority of them revealed exchanges between the embassy and the US State Department. Those revelations mainly dealt with the neglect of human rights in Tunisia and the restrictions on freedom of expression. The Tunisian government rapidly blocked access to TuniLeaks, first blocking (without the https), then on the next day blocked Google App Engine's IP Address ( in order to block Tunileaks under https as well. Additionally, the electronic version of Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, was also censored in Tunisia for containing some cables released by Tunileaks. [11]

Other Support to Revolution

One of Nawaat's innovative contributions during the revolution was identifying and translating videos and personal accounts of potential media interest that were distributed on Facebook and other social networking sites. By the time of Ben Ali's ouster, Facebook was one of the few sites not blocked by the government where protesters could post the accounts of the revolution. The Tunisian dialect in the sites' videos made them unintelligible to many native speakers of Arabic, and the Nawaat staff's translation efforts resulted in many videos of protests and Tunisian security service crackdowns being broadcast on Al-Jazeera and other international news outlets. Nawaat and its affiliates made utilized the Posterous blogging platform to distribute material to the international press. Al-Jazeera had been banned from the country by the Ben Ali government and the videos provided by Nawaat were one of the most reliable sources of valuable video footage during the revolution. [10] Nawaat also utilized its extensive network of internet activists to assist with mobilization of protesters through social media. Sami Ben Gharbia noted that one of the goals of Nawaat was to bridge the gap between collective action through social media and more traditional protest movement tactics.

Post-Revolution Activities

On the day of Ben Ali's flight from Tunisia, most sites previously blocked by ATI were available to Tunisian Internet users. ATI, still a functioning agency after the revolution, ceased censorship of opposition sites but in the following months began blocking sites deemed to be pornographic or inciting violence. At the direction of the military tribunal, five Facebook sites criticizing the army were blocked by ATI in May 2011. [6] Nawaat has continued to monitor the activities of ATI, which is still staffed by most of the same employees from the Ben Ali era. In addition, Nawaat has focused efforts on training activists in Internet technology, assisting NGOs with similar missions, monitoring elections, and continuing to publish content on human rights and social issues. [12] The Nawaat staff created the first Tunisian Hackerspace, a space where collaborative Internet technology projects can be discussed among members of the Arab Internet activist community along with worldwide partners. Hackerspace initiatives have included promotion of Arabic language Wikimedia proliferation. [13]


On March 27, 2014, [14] launched an anonymous whistleblowing initiative in order to support transparency and spot corruption. The initiative is based on the GlobaLeaks platform and the Tor technology and accessible in Arabic and French. In collaboration with GlobaLeaks, the Nawaat team created a special page that deploys a number of open source applications and techniques which protect those leaking confidential documents and files. This software even protects whistleblowers from the Nawaat team itself, which thanks to these techniques will not be able to identify the identity of those who leak information through their address emails, IP addresses, names or their geographic locations. To provide them with further protection, the Nawaat team will as usual and before the publication of any leaked confidential document, delete all meta data which increases the possibility of identifying the electronic source of documents in its different formats: audio, video clips, photos or texts. [15]

Facts and Figures

Notable Founders

Sami Ben Gharbia, one of the co-founders of is a blogger and civil society advocate. He is listed on Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers for 2011, and shares the 24th rank with Daniel Domscheit-Berg (a former deputy of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange) and Russian lawyer Alexey Navalny. Ben Gharbia is known for connecting with Ethan Zuckerman's Global Voices project, and founding TuniLeaks, exclusive WikiLeaks on Tunisia, by bringing WikiLeaks into the closed society of pre-revolutionary Tunisia, and pumping it through Nawaat Group Blog. [17]

Riadh Guerfali is a prizewinning Tunisian blogger, also known online by his pen name "Astrubal". He received the NetCitizen prize which is awarded by French press freedom campaigners Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Internet giant Google, for his work to promote freedom of expression on the Internet. [18]


Nawaat has won many major awards starting from 2011 for the role it played prior to, during the Tunisian Revolution and after.

Nawaat was awarded the Reporters Without Borders Netizen Prize, on the eve of the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. It is an award that goes to a Netizen, a blogger, online journalist, or cyber-dissident who has helped promote freedom of expression on the Internet. The winner receives a 2,500 euros prize. Nawaat won against finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. This annual award is sponsored by Google. [20]

Nawaat won "the Index on Censorship Media Award" due to its project Tunileaks, a joint project with Wikileaks that dealt with Tunisian affairs and that confirmed, with cold documents, the widely criticised corruption of President Ben Ali’s regime, and helped focus public discontent. [21]

Nawaat won the Arab eContent Award in the e-Inclusion & Participation category, an initiative of The World Summit Award (WSA). Nawaat declined the award, however, and refused to attend the Bahrain IT Expo 2011 Opening Ceremony to receive it from the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain and Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Information Technology and Communications, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa. This was in protest against Bahrain’s Internet filtering practices, arrest of bloggers and human rights activists, and blocking of websites and blogs that criticize the Bahraini government and ruling family. [24]

Related Research Articles

Internet censorship in Tunisia significantly decreased in January 2011, following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as the new acting government removed filters on social networking sites such as YouTube.

The Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG) is a coalition of 21 free-expression organisations that belong to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of non-governmental organisations that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Censorship in Tunisia has been an issue since the country gained independence in 1956. Though considered relatively mild under President Habib Bourguiba (1957–1987), censorship and other forms of repression became common under his successor, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali was listed as one of the "10 Worst Enemies of the Press" by the Committee to Protect Journalists starting in 1998. Reporters Without Borders named Ben Ali as a leading "Predator of Press Freedom". However, the Tunisia Monitoring Group reports that the situation with respect to censorship has improved dramatically since the overthrow of Ben Ali in early 2011.

Internet censorship in Morocco was listed as selective in the social, conflict/security, and Internet tools areas and as no evidence in the political area by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) in August 2009. Freedom House listed Morocco's "Internet Freedom Status" as "Partly Free" in its 2018 Freedom on the Net report.

The Internet in Egypt is an important part of daily life, as a majority of the population has access to Internet, via smartphones, Internet cafes, or at home. Broadband Internet access via ADSL is widespread. However, Internet censorship and surveillance was severe under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, culminating in a total shutdown of the Internet in Egypt during the 2011 Revolution. Though Internet access was restored following Mubarak's ouster, government censorship and surveillance have increased since the 2013 coup d'état, leading U.S. NGO Freedom House to downgrade Egypt's Internet freedom ranking from "partly free" in 2011 to "not free" in 2015.

The Internet in Tunisia played an important role in the dramatic events of the Arab Spring which began in Tunisia. The ouster of previous President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ushered in more open access and use of the Internet. Political leaders in Tunisia are making use of social media to communicate with the electorate. Restructuring the Tunisian Internet Agency under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies is one of the items that the transition government is working on.

Jillian York Activist, journalist and travel writer

Jillian C. York is an American free-expression activist, the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and a founding member of Deep Lab. She is a regular columnist for Al Jazeera English, writes for Global Voices Online, and is the author of Morocco - Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture.

Tunisian Revolution Intensive campaign of mostly non violent protest in Tunisia

The Tunisian Revolution, also called the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive 28-day campaign of civil resistance. It included a series of street demonstrations which took place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratisation of the country and to free and democratic elections.

Operation Tunisia refers to the actions by internet group Anonymous during the Tunisian revolution.

Slim Amamou Tunisian blogger

Slim Amamou (listen  is a Tunisian blogger and a former Secretary of State for Sport and Youth in the transitional Tunisian government of early 2011. He resigned from the role in the week of 25 May 2011 in protest of the transitional government's censorship of several websites.

Lina Ben Mhenni Tunisian political activist

Lina Ben Mhenni was a Tunisian Internet activist, blogger and lecturer in linguistics at Tunis University. She was internationally recognised for her work during the 2011 Tunisian revolution and in the following years.

The level of Internet censorship in the Arab Spring was escalated. Lack of Internet freedom was a tactic employed by authorities to quell protests. Rulers and governments across the Arab world utilized the law, technology, and violence to control what was being posted on and disseminated through the Internet. In Egypt, Libya, and Syria, the populations witnessed full Internet shutdowns as their respective governments attempted to quell protests. In Tunisia, the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali hacked into and stole passwords from citizens’ Facebook accounts. In Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, bloggers and “netizens” were arrested and some are alleged to have been killed. The developments since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2010 have raised the issue of Internet access as a human right and have revealed the type of power certain authoritarian governments retain over the people and the Internet.

Riadh Guerfali, also known by the pseudonym Astrubal, is a Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist. He is best known for being a manager of the website Nawaat, which itself became a platform for organizing protesters during the Tunisian revolution.

Sami Ben Gharbia Tunisian Internet activist and blogger

Sami Ben Gharbia is a Tunisian human rights campaigner, blogger, writer and freedom of expression advocate. He was a political refugee living in the Netherlands between 1998 and 2011. Sami is the author of the book Borj Erroumi XL. He is the Founding Director of the Advocacy arm of Global Voices Online and is a co-founder of the award-winning collective blog Nawaat, a Tunisian citizen journalism website which supported the Tunisian Revolution. He also co-founded The Arab Techies Collective and co-Organizer of The Arab Bloggers Conferences.

Censorship is a policy used by governments to retain control over their people by preventing the public from viewing information considered by the republic as holding the potential to incite a rebellion. The majority of nations in the Middle East censor the media, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan runs the third most stringent censorship program in the world. The government owns all forms of media and only reports good news or propaganda. In 2013, Turkmenistan banned all foreign publications and nongovernmental libraries.

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Liberalism in Tunisia Political ideology

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