Bahrain: no plans to ban BlackBerry services

Bahrain's foreign minister said the country has no plans to ban BlackBerry services because security fears do not outweigh the technological benefits.

Bahrain's foreign minister said the country has no plans to follow its Gulf neighbours in banning some BlackBerry services because security fears do not outweigh the technological benefits. His comments come as device maker Research in Motion is facing opposition by a number of countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf, to the way its encrypted e-mail and messenger services are managed.

Bahrain's Sheik Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said the handheld devices raise legitimate concerns, but that his nation has decided that banning some of the phones' features is "not a way of dealing with it". "We're not saying there is no security concern," Sheik Khaled said. But, he added: "There are many other ways for the criminals or terrorists to communicate, so we decided we might as well live with it."

Sheik Khaled said Bahrain fully respected the decisions taken by other Gulf states regarding the devices, and declined to comment on the motivation behind their moves. However, he said his country does not see a need for a ban on BlackBerry messaging or other data services for now despite the security concerns. "It's not a way of dealing with it. We will really kind of lose a lot of communication freedom just for the sake of dealing with one matter," he said.

Local media in Bahrain have reported that authorities are focusing on the spread of some types of news and information via BlackBerry. Sheik Khaled acknowledged there were "some concerns raised" but said sharing information using the devices remains legal. Authorities were aiming instead to warn users against spreading slanderous and libelous information, he said. The tech-savvy foreign minister posted a statement to his Twitter account on Thursday that he said came from the country's crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. In it, he quoted Sheik Salman offering assurances no ban on messaging was planned, saying a decision to halt the service would be "ignorant, short sighted and unenforceable."

*AP

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