GCC health ministers: All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus

1 / 9
Health Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states said that all precautionary measures have been taken to preventively deal with the coronavirus among its borders. (SPA)
2 / 9
Health Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states said that all precautionary measures have been taken to preventively deal with the coronavirus among its borders. (SPA)
3 / 9
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states. (SPA)
4 / 9
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states. (SPA)
5 / 9
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states. (SPA)
6 / 9
The announcement came during an emergency meeting in Riyadh, chaired by UAE Health Minister Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Owais. (SPA)
7 / 9
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states. (SPA)
8 / 9
GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf said in a speech that this meeting came to implement the decision of the health ministers to achieve one of the council’s goals. (SPA)
9 / 9
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 19 February 2020

GCC health ministers: All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus

RIYADH: All possible precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus along the borders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, a group of its health ministers said on Wednesday.
The measures will be implemented according to the International Health Regulations (2005) approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Unified Health Procedures Manual, which was approved by the Supreme Council at the group’s 39th summit in Riyadh in December 2018.
The announcement came during an emergency meeting in Riyadh, chaired by UAE Health Minister Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Owais, to discuss the current developments regarding the virus and how preventative and countermeasure efforts could be unified.
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states.
The ministers also praised China’s efforts in monitoring and combating the virus and expressed their full support for cooperation with Beijing.
The ministers thanked the UAE for its efforts in evacuating many Arab nationals, keeping them under medical isolation in the emirates and then transferring them to their countries.
Al-Owais also thanked the GCC’s health council officials for their active and important role in coordinating and follow-up, saying that “the common goal is to continue to coordinate positions and strengthen cooperation in controlling epidemics, especially the emerging coronavirus through concerted efforts and exchange of experiences.”
He added it was important to determine the readiness of the GCC countries and to coordinate with the WHO in line with international health regulations.
GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf said in a speech that this meeting came to implement the decision of the health ministers to achieve one of the council’s goals, “which is to unify positions and coordinate efforts, complementarity and interconnection among the GCC states in the health field.”
He added the meeting also aimed to plan to deal with emergency situations in the GCC states, to protect citizens inside and outside the GCC, and to protect residents from this virus,
“Despite the strenuous efforts of all GCC health ministries for the national prevention of this virus, the situation necessitated an emergency and extraordinary meeting of the health ministers committee to discuss common aspects that require coordination and unification of positions and efforts to confront the virus,” he said.
He also laid out the plans and precautions needed to confront the virus, thanking the ministers for the speedy response.
In 2018, the Supreme Council adopted a guide to include air, sea and land ports to reach a joint cooperation that creates effective links to quickly respond to public health emergencies.
Al-Hajraf said that the keenness and efforts of all the GCC governments in the field of health made them at the forefront among leading countries in providing comprehensive health care at regional and international levels.
On Jan. 29, an urgent meeting of the Communicable Diseases Committee for Coordination and Cooperation was held to confront and prevent the virus. The committee came out with several recommendations, including implementing precautionary protocols for examining arrivals, therapeutic protocols, the need for raising awareness and unifying media messages, among others.


Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

Updated 10 April 2020

Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

  • Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent

ISTANBUL: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be legally bound to appoint a formal representative in Turkey under a new draft law that will be brought to the country’s parliament soon.

The bill is initially designed for the government’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus, but it covers clauses about social media restrictions.

According to the experts, if adopted, this bill will pave the way for exercising government pressure on the platforms.

Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent. The social media platforms are also obliged to share users’ information with the prosecutors’ office when required.

They will also have to execute decisions coming from the criminal courts for “content removal” and/or “access denial” without any exception. Even individuals may apply to state authorities to ask the platforms to remove content. The platforms could be fined up to 1 million Turkish lira if they do not comply with the request within 24 hours.

It is still unclear whether news outlets with social media sites will also have to abide by these requirements.

Last August, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) was officially granted the authority to regulate and monitor online platforms, including series on digital TV platforms such as Netflix, news broadcasts on YouTube and social media platforms delivering news on a regular basis. Those broadcasting online were obliged to get a license first from RTUK. According to that legislation, overseas companies who broadcast in Turkey on the internet are also required to establish a company and obtain a license.

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, a scholar at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and editor in chief of NewsLabTurkey.org, said it had long been the wish of the Turkish government to keep Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter — as some of the most-used social networks in the country — under control.

“This new draft that will be brought to the parliament is a concrete step toward making Turkey’s digital sphere more controllable than ever for the government,” he told Arab News.

According to Uzunoglu, it is natural that Twitter, Facebook, Google and others are questioned by governments worldwide due to their financial activities and uncontrolled flow of money worldwide.

“Some responsible governments and politicians always question this shady feature of social networks. However, unfortunately, Turkey is not one of these countries or Turkish politicians aren’t the kind of politicians that think (about) the privacy of individuals. All they want is clearly a person who will be like an ambassador for the brand in their country whom they can get in touch with on a regular basis,” he said.

The bill also requires that all data about Turkish social media users be stored in Turkey.

Uzunoglu thinks that the daily routine of such a representative will not be very different from the life of the US ambassador in the time of crisis between US and Turkey.

“The only difference is, the government will try to keep this person and social network for everything in the platform. So that will be a disaster for both the operation of the social platform and the democracy of the country. And unlike an ambassador, the national law system in Turkey will be imposed on them. So, Facebook or Twitter won’t be different from any other web site active in Turkey,” he said.

Turkey has also increased control over social media during the coronavirus outbreak. More than 400 people have been arrested for “provocative” posts on their social media accounts about the virus.

Turkey has blocked access to social media platforms several times in the recent past, especially after the military deployments to Syria.

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter host the remaining free-speech platforms and provide an alternative information flow, Uzunoglu thinks that being forced to give away data about their users will be an attack on individual privacy.

“This definitely shows that the government is living in a completely different reality, or they imagine to live in a completely different world,” he said.

Uzunoglu also drew attention to the problematic timing of the move, especially under the extraordinary conditions caused by COVID-19.

“Just think about the Internet freedom related activism of the early 2010s when people went into the streets for the first time to protect Internet freedom. Comparing it to the self-isolation period that we are experiencing right now, it would be naive to think that it is just coincidental,” he said.