Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Provoking More Than A Million Citizens! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Our part of the world has experienced many extremely sensitive and dangerous issues, the most prominent example of which is the terrorism that threatens our nations and our region. But despite this being a volatile matter, our security services have learned a fundamental lesson, namely the necessity of making information available first and foremost to the public, and the need to adhere to the truth. Subsequently, the security apparatus is then able to convince the citizens, and earn their respect.

But what is puzzling and incomprehensible today is the method of dealing with the ‘BlackBerry’ crisis, which was instigated in the UAE and further inflamed in Saudi Arabia. These two countries have the largest population of BlackBerry users, and were also the fastest to announce a ban on their use. But neither the Emirates, nor the Saudis of course, were able to explain their position clearly to the public, and thus the situation is still blurred, and the press is lost for a clear explanation. Everyone is working hard to understand the issue, and some of newspapers justify the ban by reminding us of the ethical consequences of the device. It is worth noting that some Arab satellite channels, not to mention newspapers themselves, pose a bigger danger to ethics than any other technology.

Therefore, those following the case feel confused by the silence coming from the authorities in UAE and Saudi Arabia, especially as concern in mounting amongst more than one million BlackBerry users in the two countries. The matter is not worth all this uncertainty, rumors and provocation. Just go out and explain your case, the measures you want to undertake, and the implications of the [BlackBerry] service that that pose such a danger. You will find that people, not necessarily all of course, but a wide range of them, will respond and understand your situation, especially when it comes to sensitive security issues that directly affect their lives. This is far more effective than silence, because the message that people are receiving today is that “your government wants to spy on you”. This is not true of course, but those implementing the ban must explain their position.

The BlackBerry ban was not related to young people becoming addicted to the devices, but a broad sector of the economy will be influenced by the closure of the service. There are those who will become unemployed as a result of this process, and [it will affect] those who communicate with their children abroad or vice versa. Visitors come from all over the world to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and use the device, so the issue is not purely ethical, as alleged by some.

The puzzling matter is that since the outbreak of the ‘BlackBerry’ crisis, there has been no information of note, expressing the official stance of the UAE or Saudi Arabia, apart from the statement attributed to the UAE’s ambassador in Washington. He said that his country wanted to be treated by the [Blackberry] manufacturer in a similar way as it deals with America, but what this treatment is, and what its implications are, of course we don’t know!

Therefore, those involved in the crisis, in both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, must explain to the public, in an acceptable and reasonable manner, the truth of what is going on. They should also address their crisis management mentality, especially as their interference with the service affects nearly 1,200,000 users in Saudi Arabia and UAE, across a spectrum of different groups and interests. At least explain to people why ‘BlackBerry’ is a danger to their security, yet not a threat to the rest of the world? Does the Canadian company deal with the West in the opposite manner of how it deals with us? How? [Having explained the situation], you will find more understanding from the people, who are aware of the consequences of the matter.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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