Reporters Without Borders deplores yesterday’s announcement by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority that certain BlackBerry services such as email, messaging and web browsing will be suspended from 11 October because it has failed to reach a compromise with Research in Motion, the Canadian company that manufactures BlackBerry smartphones.
The Emirati authorities accuse Research in Motion of refusing to comply with the EAU’s laws and say they fear that the country’s security could be endangered by encrypted data transiting through foreign servers to which they have no access.
Reporters Without Borders sees the announcement as the continuation of the government’s attempts to control information and new technology and, in particular, to get control of data transferred by BlackBerry technology.
A compromise must be found that does not limit the freedom of the Emirati population, Reporters Without Borders said, urging the authorities to rescind this decision.
The Emirati authorities claim that crimes can be committed using BlackBerry services without their being able to identify who is responsible. BlackBerry users have already been arrested. They include Badr al-Dhohori, who has been held since 15 July for an initial attempt to organise a demonstration that was later abandoned. He has just been sentenced to a month in prison and a fine equivalent to one month’s salary (http://en.rsf.org/united-arab-emirates-wave-of-arrests-of-blackberry-29-07-2010,38048.html).
Reporters Without Borders hopes that the EAU announcement will not set a regrettable precedent that encourages other countries to follow suit.
The Saudi authorities told the country’s telecommunications companies today that BlackBerry messaging services would be suspended during August for failing to comply with government and social standards. The suspension did not apply to email. The Indian interior minister has meanwhile threatened to suspend Research in Motion’s activities in India if it denies the authorities access to encrypted data.