ReflectionsThe Bin Ladens of Yemen’s internet serviceYemen needs a Privacy Act [Archives:2004/786/Opinion]

November 1 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
[email protected]

Our government has been bragging about being one of the Arab countries interacting with the times and the ever-increasing globalization which if the government is serious must be faced proactively not retroactively. Also, Yemenis have been complaining that Yemen has got fine laws, which if honestly, tolerably and carefully applied shall remedy many of the daily increasing setbacks.
We were taken aback when our government ventured all of a sudden to introduce Internet Service through PTC as a rival of the already sole service provider Teleyemen Company. The government represented in PTC established and has indeed offered the service cheaper than Teleyemen. The problem here is that, whenever there is something owned by the government, those appointed to observe and direct it tend to transform it arbitrarily in their own private interest, e.g. the municipality people should take care of the capital and do things reasonably but on the contrary they are kicking people about and using the governmental capacity to perpetrate criminal acts.
The same applies on the people in charge of endowment, taxation and other organs. But, to everybody's surprise has joined the rampage for instead of improving their service, they are spying on subscribers just to find an excuse in order to rip people off.
Nowadays, they disconnect some subscribers under the excuse that subscribers surf immoral sites and several months ago they raided Internet Cafes in order to get rid of the privacy curtains. Internet Cafes are still under attack and instead of offering Internet they have turned themselves into Play station niches. The government here must be so stupid to offer the service if it is so keen about avoiding the immorality aspects.
Is it not funny and an extremely ridiculous excuse. can easily block immoral sites if they are really serious about it. So, Instead of service disconnection and the penalty they should reward those discovering new sites, which to them are considered immoral because they are doing their work for them and if these modern Matawas are indeed faithful, they can just block sites as they wish. The unwanted immoral, political and atheist sites once discovered, can be easily blocked without resorting to the primitive method of disconnection and interrogation. Such miserable actions just show them acting like a man owning a brothel and then rebuking clients for drinking wine and courting the girls and that instead they should drink milk and avoid looking. The mere saying that a subscriber enters so and so sites means that such sites are open and easily noticeable by Yemen's new Matawas. The onus lies on to block them for if they are in a hidden mode they won't be able to notice them easily, given their mentally retarded nature albeit I doubt their piety. But, there is no wonder, as people here do not consider any public service good, if they cannot utilize it to intimidate and blackmail people.
Such silly actions must be stopped immediately because they are impractical and are a slander against all the responsible people in our government because the method used is pitiable and backward and is being utilized also to blackmail people. Ben Laden inducted himself as a custodian of Islam and has hurt Islam and Muslims more than anyone ever and these ignorant spies are inducting themselves likewise as the modern Ben Ladens of Yemen's Official Internet Service. Such actions are totally destroying the president's project to spread Internet and IT in Yemen. Such spies are harming the Telecommunications officialdom and the government's announced policies. The service contract formulation is also heinous and must be replaced by a more civilized version, because the current one is reclusive and idiotic.
It must not be understood that I am against intercepting those who constitute a terrorist threat but any bugging or interception should have some governmental legality and hence now more than ever before, arises the immediate need for a “Yemeni Privacy Act” dealing with all types of privacy violations whether that be Internet, Telephone or otherwise, taking into account that most reports against individuals are in most cases vexatious and intrusive. Again official tools must not be exploited for whimsical purposes, as is the case now with regard to many governmental properties, capacities and incumbencies. Will we ever wake up?