Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications regulator has threatened to block messaging applications, such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber if telecommunication companies fail to monitor the applications.
The Saudi Telecommunications and Information Technology Commission urged telecom companies to examine possible ways for security oversight with companies who own those ‘apps.’
The commission gave the telecom companies until the end of this week to respond. In case they say it is impossible to monitor the applications, the commission said it will consider procedures to block them altogether in the kingdom.
The Saudi telecommunication watchdog had addressed a similar case with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) in 2010 when it ordered local telecommunication companies to suspend BlackBerry messenger services.
The Kingdom demanded access to the Blackberry’s encrypted network. The Saudi regulatory commission reportedly refused to comment about its imminent decision.
Sulaiman Mirdad, the commission’s deputy governor, told the Okaz daily newspaper that the commission has named Sultan al-Malik as its spokesman to answer the media’s questions.
But the paper reported that several attempts were made to reach al-Malik by phone but he did not respond.
Saudi online users took to twitter to mock the commission’s anticipated decision, with some asking for the internet service to be cut off altogether. Others wrote that the next target for government control will be the oxygen that people breathe.
[Saudi Arabia] is afraid of everything. It’s actually the country which is the number one enemy of democracy and human rights. They basically do not exist in that country.”
In the background to this, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to protest against Saudi forces who opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators, killing a teenager and with scores injured.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Zayd al-Isa, a Middle East expert from London, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: In a country that claims to be a supporter of democracy and human rights, we see suppression of the voices of dissent and a heavy-handed response to those who stage demonstrations there. Just why does Saudi Arabia prevent the voices of dissent from being heard? What is it afraid of?
Al-Isa: It’s afraid of everything. It’s actually the country which is the number one enemy of democracy and human rights. They basically do not exist in that country.
All those people who are gathering, they are simply asking for legitimacy, for justice, for human rights, political reform and democratic change.
But now, because of the ferocious and murderous onslaught which has been unleashed by the authorities, those people are demanding the downfall of the Al Saud regime which is absolutely incapable as is considerably clear from their actions of facing any concrete or tangible steps towards reform.
We’ve seen that they always resort to brutal, ruthless, murderous crackdowns against peaceful demonstrators – those people are simply peaceful protesters.
But I do believe that those murderous and ferocious crackdowns have spectacularly backfired. It has spectacularly failed in derailing or unnerving those people from taking to the streets.
We’ve seen those protests gathering momentum, gathering face.
A heavy-handed approach has simply backfired and galvanized more support for those protests. They actually have bolstered the position of the protesters. Even those people who did not participate at the beginning by sitting on their hands have now joined in. You can see now that the numbers are intensifying and the protests are escalating.
We’ve seen [them] trying to bribe off the people, issuing stern warning against protests. Even the Wahhabi Salafis institutions said that those protests are anti-Islamic.
The mufti of Saudi Arabia has said that they are simply a bunch of prisoners and outsiders who hell-bent on destabilizing the regime. The interior minister has called those people terrorists…
“The international community must be vigilant of Al Saud’s crackdown on human rights organizations in the country,” Jokar, who is also member of Iran Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Riyadh criminal court dissolved the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), with the judge saying the group had failed “to obtain authorization.”
Referring to the court order as a clear violation of human rights, the lawmaker noted that governments devoid of popular support have to resort to repression and intimidation to maintain their authority.
“Legislative and judicial institutions of the Al Saud regime are ailing, as they are only after protecting the [Al Saud] regime rather than the interests of the people of the country, and the product of such a regime will certainly not be human rights and democracy,” the lawmaker added.
The Riyadh court also upheld a six-year jail sentence for Abdullah al-Hamed, an ACPRA activist, and increased his sentence by five more years.
Hamed has also received an 11-year travel ban, which will prevent him from leaving Saudi Arabia for a little over a decade after his release from prison.
Mohammed Gahtani, another group member, was also given 10 years in prison and a 10-year travel ban.
The two men were convicted of breaching the kingdom’s cyber crime law by using Twitter to lash out at the country’s political system and social life.
- Uprising endangers the grip of the Saud dynasty: Jamal Wakim (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Saudi Arabia ‘threatens Skype ban’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Saudi Arabia cleric criticises Twitter (bigpondnews.com)
- Britain & Wahhabism (deliberation.info)
- Travesty of Saudi Dirty Tricks Against Iran by Finian Cunningham (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Dumb and Dangerous: America’s Fast Pass for Saudi Arabia (conservativeread.com)
- Saudi Arabia ‘threatens to ban’ Skype, WhatsApp, other instant messaging apps (rt.com)
- Saudi Arabia threatens to block Skype, WhatsApp, Viber (iranaware.com)