Uncertainty in Tunisia

Yesterday my column on Tunisia at al-Masri al-Youm went up, news about a curfew in Tunis had just surfaced, rumors of grumbling in the military and the firing of General Rachid ben Ammar, the head of the army, were spreading and there were reports that much of the Ben Ali family was either in Canada or heading to Argentina.

No wonder that by late Tuesday / early Wednesday there were rumors of a coup. And right now, as I write this, news is trickling that Ben Ali has fired his interior minister and prime minister, and released all those arrested (aside from those charged as criminals). This is the response Ben Ali should have had two days ago in his speech to calm the situation — it's a peace offering. He may have missed that opportunity, though, with general strikes scheduled for the next few days.

All of this highlights the paucity of reliable information about what's happening in a dictatorship, and the heroic efforts (and occasional mistakes) of the people spreading the news on Twitter and elsewhere. I'll be talking about this and more on al-Jazeera International today at around 5pm Cairo time.