A school to defend the Mediterranean cyberactivists

The commitment to freedom of information and expression has led many organizations to focus their projects on the protection and defense of those who dare to tell and disseminate what is happening in their countries. To fight censorship and to protect the activities of communicators, journalists, bloggers, cyberactivists…

The school for digital security, established a few months ago, was created to protect activists from censorship and illegal control of their activities. Thanks to a project undertaken by Canadian NGO Alternatives and funds from the European Union, the school has set up activities involving activists in the Maghreb and Mashreq areas, including Tunisia, Palestine, Syria and Sudan.

The idea was launched last year, thanks to an international network coordinated by the NGO Alternatives and with the participation of the Irish eQualit.ie, the American APC and the tunisian FTDES. The aim is to give support to the freedom of expression and  access to information through a wide network in the Middle East and North Africa to continue building bridges – real and virtual- that challenge censorship while reaffirming that freedom of information and expression are universal rights. 600x400_1297902070_Twitter[1]

The italian organisation Un Ponte per… – with which Novact has worked for years  on several projects in Iraq,  contributes with its experience on the ground through projects that support the Iraqi civil society like the Iraqi Civil Society Initiative, and is also committed to creating synergy with its own Mediterranean program for the freedom of expression. This is a project created to provide protection and training to all those journalists and activists, as well as trade unionists and members of associations of the civil society, that in the last years have had a fundamental role in grass-roots information in their countries, and that every day have to struggle with thier rights to inform and to be able to practise their profession with guarantees of security.

It is from here that the idea to organise the first International Conference on freedom of expression came about. It was organised last May in Tunisia, with the aim of building and elaborating initiatives and concrete actions of solidarity against violation, and to protect activists and journalists on those places where they are more exposed. The meeting made clear that, after the Arab revolutions in 2011, there is strong repression surrounding bloggers, activists, journalists and defenders of human rights.

In Iraq, the act of informing could mean losing your life. The figures back this up: in 2014 alone, 17 journalists have been murdered while doing their job. Today, with the advance of ISIS and measures to control the Internet approved by the new government, the danger is even worse. In fact, a recently approved law against cybercrime, has been strongly criticised by the associations of the civil society for putting journalists, political opponents and activists in danger.

In Novact, we have developed a similar initiative in Spain and Morocco. The project Defend the Defenders has resulted in a coalition of people protecting defenders of human rights with a strong commitment to freedom of expression and information, which is threatened with public safety law that  the Spanish government is starting. Meanwhile, in Morocco, we participate in the tables of freedom of expression and right to information of the Global Forum on Human Rights. We also have several projects on advocacy and collective participation in the country’s policy regarding laws as the new Code of the press, for example. Laws that are being created without any coordination with social movements, trade unions, women’s organizations and youth movements, thereby breaching the provisions of the Constitution of the country.