08/02/2010, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA - UAE
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Doubts surround Saudi and Emirates decision to block Blackberry

Motivated by security reasons, some people fear it hides a desire to control the flow of information. Authorities say they will provide alternative services, but supplied by domestic businesses, subject to national laws.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - Doubts remain over the decision announced by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to suspend the email, SMS and Internet browsing services of BlackBerry officially for unspecified "security reasons", while some especially in the world of bloggers believe that the real reason is the authorities desire to control information.

Following the decision, first announced yesterday by the UAE (who will block services on October 11) and then by Saudi Arabia (who will stop them this month) question remains of how they will "replace" the services so far enjoyed by Blackberry users, 500 thousand in the UAE and 400 thousand Saudi Arabia.

The UAE Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) refers to the fact that management of information traffic is based "abroad" and therefore open to the possibility of violating national laws, which, internal operators must obey. Not by chance, in announcing the blockade, the Director of TRA, Mohammed al-Ghanenm gave the date of 11 October to give national telecommunications companies time to prepare to provide users with an “alternative service" with "minimal disruption".

Some users speaking to local newspapers stress that thanks to the Blackberry they can keep in touch with friends and distant relatives. One of them told Saudi Arab News -"to contact my brothers abroad every day. I suppose if they ban it I'll have to go back to talking to them every month"

The view that the governments wants to control the flow of information, is confirmed by an affirmation of a TRA spokesman, quoted by Gulf News, who says that "all operators" - the national Emirates Telecommunication Corporation and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company and Canada's Research In Motion (RIM), which runs Blackberry - are working to find a service that respects national legislation. Which suggests to Matthew Reed, an expert at Informa Telecoms and Media, interviewed by the same newspaper, that it is "just another way to put pressure on RIM".

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