Internet restrictions in the UAE, especially banning video and voice calling through social networks such as Snapchat and Whatsapp has not only reportedly angered users living across the country, but also pushed Saeed Al Remeithi, the UAE Federal National Council’s (FNC) youngest member to query the country’s internet restrictions.
Remeithi voiced his opinion openly during an FNC session yesterday, saying that the UAE representatives were “embarrassed in the international federation by this issue,” citing the United Nations declaration that internet use is a human right.
He alluded to the recent ban on messaging app Snapchat’s new voice and video calling feature advised that the UAE should have the same online access as any other developed country, and be open to anyone paying for telecoms in this country.
“It should be available for everyone on an international level. As UAE representatives we are embarrassed in the international federation by this issue,” he added.
However, Hamad Al Mansouri, the head of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority attributed these restrictions to state security and cyber-terrorism concerns saying: “The security factor is important in the country. If we neglect it, online calling will impose risks.”
Al Mansouri then supported his argument by saying that the UAE was not alone in imposing restrictions, citing the suspension of online calling in Morocco and considerations to block some features in France and the UK.
The FNC is a 40-strong group of government officials (20 of who are elected) that are tasked with representing the Emirati people and advising on legislature and government decisions.
Remeithi, incidentally, relied heavily on social media for his election to the FNC, as per this report in Gulf News.
“I was, to a large extent, expecting to win because I was regularly communicating with the public through Twitter and Snapchat. Voters also messaged me whenever they cast their ballot for me, which was very reassuring,” he told the newspaper back in 2015.
Remeithi, who works as an officer for the UAE Armed Forces in the capital, holds a masters in IT and New Media from the US and a bachelor’s degree in IT and Multimedia from the UK.