Encrypted messaging services such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp could be blocked in Saudi Arabia. The telecommunications censor is demanding a means to snoop on such applications.
Saudi newspapers are reporting that the companies behind the applications have been given a week to respond. No explanation has been given of why the demand has been made.
Internet communications has had a big impact in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest take-up of Twitter in the world, reports the BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher. He adds that this latest threat would potentially deprive people of
what has become an essential means of simply communicating with friends and family.
One Saudi user told the local media that she would feel uncomfortable talking to her relative on Skype without her hijab (headscarf) if she believed someone might be listening in on her.
Expatriate workers have messaged newspapers pleading with the Saudis not to stop their only affordable means of communication to their families back home.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns new restrictions that Saudi authorities will impose on news websites.
Saud Kateb, the spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information, said that the new requirements include having a commercial registration, an office space, and a municipal license. He also said that editors-in-chief should have college
degrees and Saudi citizenship, among other conditions.
Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator said:
With these restrictions, the Saudi government is sending a clear message that it will be almost impossible for online media to operate with any autonomy. We are deeply concerned by these measures and call on the Saudi government to stop
interfering with the flow of news and information.
The requirements will be enforced in October, at the beginning of the new year in the Islamic calendar. News websites have been warned that if they do not comply, they will be shut down and/or lose their license,