Stalled revolution frustrates 'a Tunisian girl'

Stalled revolution frustrates 'a Tunisian girl'
3 min read
11 November, 2014
Lina Ben Mhenni blogger has received heavy criticism since she rose to fame, but her frustration is reserved for a stalled revolution.
Ben Mhenni's blog is widely read in Arabic [Getty]

She is the Tunisian woman who blogged about the Tunisian revolution, and showed the world what was really going on when the country was under information lockdown.

Back then, fabricated and misleading information was rife in the country. Online, however, Lina Ben Mhenni opened closed doors. She sketched out the reality of the revolution in her blog, A Tunisian Girl, which later became a best-selling book.

After the revolution, Ben Mhenni's daily testimonies on TV stations, and on social media gave her a worldwide audience, but it hasn't always been easy. She was subject to intense scrutiny from the military and her blog was hacked. 

And, keeping herself safe, also incurred personal sacrifice.

     Some people wanted to honour me and I didn't want to turn them down.
- Lina Ben Mhenni

"I was deprived from seeing my family because I was in a safe house away from the surveillance of the secret police," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed, in a recent interview.


As a result of her coverage, she was nominated for a number of international prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and 2013. Some critics have seized on such plaudits to suggest she is cashing in on the revolution.

Ben Mhenni rejects the criticism.

"First, I did not nominate myself for any prize," she said. "And the Nobel nominations even came as a surprise to me. I learned about the nominations on the internet. As for the awards that I did receive, some people wanted to honour me and I didn't want to turn them down."

Was that wrong she asked, and why not criticise the people giving the prizes?

"What fault did I commit? I did something I considered my duty and some others found it worthwhile."

Political position

After the revolution, Ben Mhenni was considered for a position at the High Commission for the Reform of Media and Communications, which sparked renewed criticism on the grounds that she was a "blogger" not a "journalist". 

She did not pay much attention to this criticism, nor indeed was the association long-lived.

"When I was invited to join the commission, it was mainly to be involved in the electronic media department, but when I realised that my reports to the commission were not taken seriously, I quit."

Ben Mhenni, who studied journalism in the United States, refused to be "decoration" for the commission, she said. 

     The failure to expand the base of the parties within the parliament shocked me.
- Lina Ben Mhenni

And Ben Mhenni remains frustrated with the aftermath of the revolution, especially the most recent elections.

"I am depressed. Although I was expecting this polarisation, the failure to expand the base of the parties within the parliament shocked me.

"After four years of the revolution, and the success of overthrowing Ben Ali's regime, I think it has been diverted from its early objectives. What we are living today is not what we called for during the revolution. I say this with sadness."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.