Emiratis now able to log on to Flickr

UAE lifts ban on photo-sharing website in move to ease information freedoms.

The United Arab Emirates has lifted a five-year ban on the photo-sharing website Flickr in a move seen as an easing of information freedom in the tech-savvy, Gulf state country.
“I think it is a great step forward,” said Sultan Al Qassemi the founder of Barjeel Securities in Dubai and a regular commentator on the UAE. “We are all happy that the ban has been lifted. We are all relieved.”
The United Arab Emirates slapped a government-enforced ban on Flickr in 2005, just one year after the popular photo and video hosting website had been launched. The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authorities ban was made on the grounds Flickr’s content was “inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the UAE.”
The lifting of ban was quiet and took place without any official announcement.
Nevertheless, many in the United Arab Emirates saw the move as a sign of forward momentum in the area of free speech, particularly since it will allow Emiratis to have access to the website’s over five billion photos and videos.
“Now, we want to know why there was a ban in the first place and why that ban was lifted,” Al Qassemi told The Media Line. “Internet users in the UAE feel like it [the governments lifting of the ban] was very ad hoc and very haphazard.”
Al Qassemi cited that there was no official press announcement and many never knew why the government had initially blocked this particular website while others with similar content were not banned.
“If there were images, there are equally controversial images on Facebook,” Al Qassemi pointed out. “I think there should be a system where if a website goes against the morals of the UAE, i.e. are anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic, then we should be happy to have them banned from our country.”
Al Qassemi suspected that the UAE government made the decision after it no longer saw a point of the ban.
 “There were so many ways that people could circumvent the ban through proxies in the UAE that it was counter productive. People found a way around it,” he said.
Gaith Saqer Founder and Editor of ArabCrunch, which seeks to provide objective coverage of technology and social media in the Arab world told The Media Line he was satisfied with the lifting of the ban.
“We think people should have the right to have a free flow of information,” Saqer said. “People should be able to choose for themselves.”