Geneva – With the outbreak of the novel COVID19 pandemic in the world, which has impacted all walks of life in a tremendous manner, the governments of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are urged to lift their long ban on Voice Over IP (VoIP) platforms, including Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp and others, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said on 8 July 2020 in a joint written speech with the Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health (GIWEH) at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva.
The pandemic has compelled people all over the world, including the Gulf region, to use such essential applications to resume their work and education online, to connect virtually with family members and friends, and to access health related information and guidance. Hence, not lifting the ban hinders individuals’ ability to enjoy a normal life, stay home or socially distance.
Meanwhile, the government of UAE has been promoting an alternative application called ToTok, developed by the Abu Dhabi-based cyber intelligence and hacking company, DarkMatter, which employs former Israeli intelligence officers, and provides hacking services to the UAE intelligence against Western targets, journalists and human rights activists.
In a joint statement with 28 international human rights organizations signed in early April, Euro-Med Monitor has confirmed that blocking online services is a violation of basic rights including freedom of expression, privacy, and access to information which requires lifting the restrictions imposed and supporting access to open, safe, and reliable Internet.