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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Internet San Frontières: Viber blockage violates ITU constitution

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As the UN specialised agency for telecommunications, ITU was established in 1865 as an impartial, international organisation within which governments and the private sector could coordinate the operation of telecommunication networks and services, and advance the development of information and communication technology. Among other things, it promotes and defend freedom of expression on the Internet, the protection of personal data and internet neutrality

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Julie Owono, Internet sans Frontiers’ head of Africa desk, however said the organisation “is worried by the decision to block VOIP services in The Gambia”, and calls on the Gambian government to reconsider this decision and facilitate free access to internet by all its citizens. Some service users in The Gambia continue to use the services by using proxy servers.

“The Gambia as a member state of the ITU is bound by the provisions of the constitution of the ITU to take all measures to protect Gambian citizens to use international telecommunication services such as Viber.”

She cited Article 33 of the ITU Constitution, which states that, “Member States recognise the right of the public to correspond by means of the international service of public correspondence.” 

About three months ago, Gambia’s communications officials denied blocking the Viber services in the country. But Viber Company is maintaining that governments and internet service providers reserve the right to do so. The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Lamin Camara, had denied that the services were blocked and rather blamed the service’s direct non-availability on “hiccups or technical faults with networks.”

Today, ITU is also devoting considerable effort to bridging the digital divide and bringing the benefits of ICT to all. The ITU is mandated by its constitution to “extend the benefits of the new telecommunication technologies to all the world’s inhabitants.” For the past 144 years, the ITU has worked to harmonise national policies worldwide, bridge technological differences, foster interoperability and to facilitate the availability of information and communication technologies on a global basis.

ITU continues to work with Nepad, African Union Commission, UN Economic Commision for Africa, Africa Development Bank, World Bank and other partners in following up the Connect Africa Summit Initiative which provides the forum and platform for coordination of various projects and activities leading to NEPAD objectives in the development of ICT infrastructure in Africa.

The Declaration of Principles and the Action Plan from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Geneva 2003, emphasised the need for regional dialogue, cooperation and partnership among national, regional and international stakeholders in order to realise the objectives, goals and targets for building an all-inclusive Information Society, ISF statement said.


By Sanna Camara


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