On Friday night, before catching an early flight out of Tunis, I had the great pleasure of joining the 8th Tunisian Bloggers Meetup, along with fellow WSIS participants Jeff Ooi of Malaysia and Isam Bayazidi of Jordan. After the craziness of the past several days, it was really nice to leave the conference behind, just talk about blogging, and enjoy each others' company. Presiding over the event were the blogger couple, Global Voices contributor Mohamed Marwen Medda (MMM) aka "Subzero Blue" and his brilliant and beautiful wife who goes by the nom-de-blog "Aquacool." Many of Tunisia’s bloggers write in French and Arabic, not English, but many of them speak rather decent English (their third language) and we had some fascinating conversations.
We talked a lot about the explosion of blogging in the Arab world, and how it may be time for an "Arab Voices" to help connect conversations going on in various nations' blogospheres. Isam pointed out that bloggers in one country have a hard time knowing who the good bloggers are in neighboring countries, and it's time to create a platform for a pan-Arab blogging community. Sounds like a great idea to me.
Having Jeff Ooi there was a real treat. Everybody at the table sat rapt in fascination and suspense as Jeff told the story of his threatened arrest last year after somebody posted an anonymous, derogatory comment against Islam on his blog. In the Arab world, bloggers naturally share a lot of similar concerns. The conversation was intense as people exchanged experiences and views on how one balances the desire to speak freely with political and religious pressures of various kinds.
The evening really whetted my appetite for our upcoming Global Voices Summit, in London on December 10th.