Reporters Without Borders condemns a government decision to limit use of the BlackBerry smartphone’s most secure system, BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), in the United Arab Emirates to a few companies with more than 20 BlackBerry users.
Osman Sultan, the CEO of the telecommunications firm Du, announced on 25 April that the government-imposed restriction will go into effect on 1 May. Du’s main rival, Etisalat, has also been ordered to implement the same restriction on access to BES.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Emirati authorities not to implement this decision, just as they backed down on a threat last October to suspend a wide range of BlackBerry services.
“The government must not take advantage of the political tension in the region to reinforce its control over information and communications in the UAE,” Reporters Without Borders said.
If the restriction takes effect, ordinary BlackBerry clients will have to use BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), which transmits data via the standard Internet and is easier for the authorities to monitor. BES transmits data via servers based abroad and cannot be monitored.
Two bloggers and a netizen are meanwhile being held in connection with the views they expressed online. The first to be detained was Ahmed Mansoor, a popular blogger, who had previously been threatened and whose blog was suspended a year ago. He was arrested on 8 April by a dozen men who confiscated his computer and documents. Farhad Salem Al-Shehhi, a blogger who had jointly managed Mansoor’s blog, was arrested the next day. Nasser bin Ghaith, a writer and professor at Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, was arrested on 10 April. All three had signed a petition calling for the extension of voting rights in the UAE and for its parliament to be granted more powers. Two other signatories, Hassan Ali Al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, were arrested shortly afterwards.
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of all five detainees, who just exercised their fundamental right to express their opinions freely. The authorities must end the repressive policies currently being implemented.
The UAE is listed as country “under surveillance” in the “Enemies of the Internet” list that Reporters Without Borders released on 12 March.