Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, Noomen Fehri said in an interview with Africanmanager that the control of websites is carried out only on the basis of judicial authorizations and the successes achieved by security forces in the fight against terrorism are the result of coordination with the technical agency for telecommunications. He also assured that the draft law on cybercrime offenses will be ready by the end of the year.
What can you tell us about websites monitoring in Tunisia?
It must be admitted that the virtual world has become larger than the real one, and all operations are performed through this new technology. This is why Tunisia has established the technical agency for telecommunications.
The agency’s mission is to ensure the technical consolidation of judicial authorities. So our intervention is made only through a court order.
The technical agency for telecommunications, headed by a technical person, only intervenes when the authorities consider it is important to monitor some specific groups or certain well-defined portals or sites.
Need I remind you that the board of directors of the agency includes a judge, a representative of the higher authority of human rights and one representative from the National Agency for Data Protection. They are responsible for ensuring the existence of a legal request before forwarding it to that agency that later starts the search.
How is this search conducted?
This search concerns the monitoring of the sites, i.e. by locating the places where the creators of these sites manage them; from any location, and by following the IP address.
Officials at the agency are also responsible for providing information to the concerned party which, subsequently, will continue its work.
Does the agency control sites now?
When there is a legal request, it starts control. Besides, I can say that we are trying to follow some sites knowing that we know their administrators and connection locations.
But note that these sites are hosted abroad and even when we ask Interpol to close them, we would face new sites. This is the already the case of Ifrikiya al Alam, a cell close to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade.
Even if we ask to close it, it will reopen again. Moreover, these sites which we know very well have systems allowing them to open, every night, pages that have been closed.
What is the number of monitored websites?
The number is estimated at dozens if not hundreds.
I assure you that the closure of the sites does not make sense because their creators are able to put them back online in a very short time estimated to minutes.
The opening of these sites is more important to us since we will be able to follow and to know their visitors and times of the visits, through any medium and through any system.
Furthermore, collaboration between stakeholders is done while respecting two things. These include respect for law and human rights, on the one hand and speed and efficiency on the other.
Moreover, the success of our security body in the fight against terrorism was achieved through better coordination with the technical agency for telecommunications.
But if we were not there and there was no collaboration, I assure you that the dangers would have been enormous.
Your department is preparing a draft law on cybercrime. Can you shed some light on it?
It should be noted that there are two laws. The first law is on the fight against terrorism. The latter already encompasses terrorism in everyday life and the one through the virtual world. Moreover, this law is currently under review at the parliament.
The second also affects cyber-crimes in general. Because, a cyber crime is not automatically a terrorist crime and vice versa.
For these cyber crimes, we have drafted a law that is almost ready. Moreover, we will begin discussions with the civil society to examine it, in order to obtain an agreement before submitting it to HPR. We want it to be a law that guarantees freedoms.
When will that bill be ready?
By the end of May, the consultation would be conducted and we would be ready by the end of June to submit it to parliament. It could be argued that it will be ready by the end of this year.