The Gambia’s Ministry of Information Monday said Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as the use of Skype or Viper to make local or international calls has not been “banned” in the country.
The clarification followed a heated debate on, and offline, over an earlier statement issued by the country’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, PURA, on April 19, 2013 which prohibited companies and individual internet café operators from “offering dating and VoIP services as a commercially available service” to Gambians.
“PURA wishes to make it abundantly clear that the offering of “International and National Calling Services” within Internet Cafes using VoIP services (Viber, Skype, etc) is strictly prohibited,” the regulatory body said last Friday.
It claims “Anyone who is engaged in this activity is depriving the country of the much needed revenue from international and national calls required for the development of The Gambia”.
That statement generated widespread media attention online and a heated debate on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. However, the Ministry said local and online media reports misconstrued PURA’s statement.
“The Ministry urges all media whose publications have misunderstood this to do the right thing in service to their country and to their readership to re-read the PURA press release, publish retractions, and report correctly on the intervention by the national regulator to protect citizens and a fair business environment in The Gambia,” an April 22 statement said.
Though the Ministry noted that “individuals can continue to use Skype or Viper on their personal devices”, it says, “PURA have found it necessary to draw the attention of all operators of internet cafes of the criminal act that deprives registered internet service providers of revenue vital to their operations and to the revenue of the national treasury”.
The Ministry reveals PURA and concerned units of Government are investigating individuals and internet café owners in order to put in place measures to protect young users from entrapments of online dating services which have leave vulnerable citizens to pornographic sites, paedophilia, child trafficking, and sex tourism.