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Saudi Arabia to lift ban on WhatsApp, Skype, other internet calling apps

Saudi Arabia, with its bulging youth population, is among the world's top per capita users of social media

AFP | PTI  |  Riyadh 

Photo: Shutterstock

will lift its ban on internet calling applications today, authorities said, easing restrictions online as the conservative kingdom faces new criticism over censorship.

Voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype will be "widely available to users", a statement said yesterday, in a move aimed at improving business confidence as the kingdom transitions into a post-era.

"Access to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur entrepreneurship," the statement said, citing a directive from the communications and technology ministry.

"transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries."

The announcement comes a day after Al Jazeera lashed out at Snapchat for blocking the Qatari broadcaster from its app in at the request of Saudi authorities.

has long accused Al Jazeera of acting as a mouthpiece for extremist groups, a charge it denies.

Alongside the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar in June, in the worst diplomatic crisis to roil the Gulf in years.

Al Jazeera condemned the blocking as an assault on freedom of expression but the Saudi vigorously defended its position.

"The recent cooperation with Snapchat to remove Al Jazeera, a harmful, propaganda-pushing channel that supports extremism, should not be considered in isolation or interpreted as a crackdown on free media," the Saudi statement said.

Saudi Arabia, with its bulging youth population, is among the world's top per capita users of

The internet represents a limited space for freedom of expression in a country with strict social codes.

More than half of Saudi Arabia's citizens are under 25, who spend much of their time on platforms, away from official strictures and traditions.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, September 20 2017. 08:55 IST