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New security measures introduced for Internet cafés

After blocking ten thousand sites in Saudi Arabia, new security measures against Internet Cafés

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 19 April 2009 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said today that the Saudi Ministry of Interior has imposed severe restrictions on Saudi Internet Cafés, requiring owners of Internet Cafés to install secret surveillance cameras inside cyber cafés, to register users' names and identity numbers. In addition the ministry imposed limits on the use of Internet on the Cafés' phone lines, as well as other measures to impose more restrictions on Internet users, in a country known for its restrictive, repressive policy and its continuous hostility towards the freedom of using this important tool.

It is worth mentioning that the Interior Ministry has issued 8 basic instructions to owners of Internet Cafés on 15 April, requiring them:
1. To install secret surveillance cameras.
2. To prepare an electronic or manual registration of users and identities.
3. Prohibiting the use of prepaid Internet cards and satellite dishes to access the Internet without authorization of the competent authorities.
4. Prohibiting the use of any Internet device unless indicated in the certificate issued by the service provider.
5. To ensure that the supervisor of the Cyber Café must be Saudi.
6. Prohibiting those under 18 from using the Internet.
7. To have opening hours that are the same as other commercial shops, therefore the Café must close at midnight (local time).
8. To ensure that all phones used in the Café are under the Café's name, "neither the owner nor any other person."

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information affirmed that "These decisions go against the announcements of Saudi Arabia which claims it is striving for reform . . . such decisions are more like establishing a small prison inside each Internet Café, and sadly, it indicates how the Saudi Interior Ministry perceives Internet users."

Most Internet users in Saudi Arabia, who exceed seven million, suffer from the tremendous expansion in the repressive policy adopted by the Communication and Information Technology Institution, which controls the use of the Internet in Saudi Arabia. It now censors and blocks web sites in general, and also censors freedom of navigation, which proves that Saudi Arabia is one of the most suppressive countries with regard to freedom of the press and the Internet.

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