In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Euro-Med Monitor co-signed today a joint statement with 29 international organizations – such as Access Now, Human Rights Watch and Digital Rights Foundation, calling on the respective governments of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to lift their long ban on Voice Over IP (VoIP) platforms, including Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp and others.
The spread of the Novel Coronavirus puts a great responsibility on all governments to ensure their public’s safe and unrestricted access to information, communication and online means of performing work and education from home in order to ensure the overall safety and wellbeing of their societies.
“It’s long overdue that Gulf governments lift the ban on VoIP platforms in those unprecedented times,” Anas Al-Jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s MENA Regional Manager emphasized, “Otherwise, it’s self-contradictory to ask citizens to comply with safety instructions such as social distancing, self-isolation and working from home while constraining their ability and access to online platforms and necessary means for voice and video internet calls that enable distant working and learning.”
Recently, the governments of Oman and the UAE announced exceptionally and temporarily unblocking Zoom, Skype for Business, and other apps during the spread of Covid-19, while continuing to block access to FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp for the general public.
Euro-Med Monitor asserts that access to VoIP platforms is now indispensable to people’s safety and wellbeing, as it ensures the ability to receive telehealth instructions and care and provides individuals with the affordable means to learn and work from home and stay in touch with friends and family for emotional support. Hence, lifting the ban on VoIP platforms falls into governments’ mandate to guarantee their respective populations’ health, wellbeing and safety.
It’s now absolutely and indisputably necessary for Gulf countries to permanently lift all restrictions on VoIP platforms and facilitate their citizens’ full access to secure and reliable internet.
Full Statement, Here