Matt J. Duffy :: Thoughts on Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication

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Dr. Matt J. Duffy teaches journalism, media ethics and international communication law. His research focuses on journalism and media laws in the Middle East. Duffy's book "Media Laws of the United Arab Emirates" was published in 2014 by Wolters Kluwer. His academic work has been published in the Journal of Middle East Media, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, and the Newspaper Research Journal. He received a Ph.D. in Public Communication from Georgia State University in the United States where he studied the use of unnamed sources in journalism. Duffy is board member of the Arab-United States Association for Communication Educators, an organization that aims to improve journalism in the Middle East. He teaches international communication law at Kennesaw State University.

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Skype will remain blocked in UAE

posted on May 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Sorry for my disappointing headline, but I think it reflects reality.

My recent column in Gulf News addressed the blocking of the Skype voice-over-Internet service in the United Arab Emirates. I pointed out that occasionally a news report would indicate that the block may soon be lifted — but there’s little evidence to suggest the government will change its position anytime soon. Here’s a bit from the column:

Still, the blocking of Skype seems to be a widely disdained practice — particularly with the large expatriate community who would like to use the service legally to speak to relatives and friends back home. From time to time, expatriates get excited at the prospect that the government may lift the Skype ban.

This happened last week following comments made by Mohammad Al Ganem, Director-General of TRA, during a one-hour Q&A session on the Twitter platform.

Users could tweet questions to Al Ganem and he responded to many inquiries, including a query about whether Skype would ever be unblocked. Al Ganem responded that Skype would be unblocked as soon as the company applied for a telecom licence in the UAE.

“It is purely a licensing matter,” he said. “I hope they come to TRA for a licence.”

The only problem with this position is that Skype is never going to apply for a licence to operate in the UAE, because Skype doesn’t apply for licences to operate anywhere. That’s why it’s free. Users simply download the software and start making calls.

Most governments don’t interfere with this process — Skype hasn’t had to apply for any licences to operate in the 150 countries where it’s not blocked. Quite simply, Skype will continue to not work in the UAE until the TRA decides to revise its position on the regulation of VoIP services.

My advice: Accept that Skype is blocked and look into technological alternatives.

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