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Independent news site blocked less than a year after its launch

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the blocking of the Emirates Local News site ( http://localnewsuae.com/ ) - which tracks, translates and posts all news on the UAE worldwide - only 10 days prior to its first anniversary in operation. The UAE government provided no reason for the decision.

On November 21, 2010, site visitors were surprised to find their popular site gone and a message in Arabic and English reading "Access to this site is currently not permitted. The site is classified as banned as per the regulations of the Internet access department in the UAE". There was no further clarification for the blocking of the site.

ANHRI says that blocking the site was due to its posting news about the UAE which the government would prefer to conceal from its citizens. The authorities decided to block the site inside the UAE which is a straightforward violation of citizens' right to access information.

Despite the technological developments and the growing software market in the UAE, the country's practice of blocking websites is a dark spot on its human rights record as it is an attempt to silence critical voices. The UAE government has a long record and a steady trend in blocking Internet sites, including the alHewar alEmarati forum, which was blocked at the beginning of 2010.

"In addition to the ongoing blocking of Internet sites which started in the UAE many years ago, freedom of expression is also steadily retreating. We are monitoring the restrictions on the use of Blackberrys and the banning of some printed papers like 'alSharq alAwsat' in October 2010," says ANHRI.

ANHRI expresses deep regret over the significant decline in Internet use and freedom of expression in the UAE and urges the UAE government to lift the blocking on the Emirates Local News site and not to copy neighbouring Arab countries which have turned out to be the worst oppressors of freedom of expression on earth.

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