Yahoo!, owner of Flickr.com, today confirmed that U.A.E. authorities have agreed to unblock all of the photo-sharing website except Flickr Groups.
In a statement, Ahmed Nassef, vice president and managing director of Yahoo! Middle East said: "Overall, this is a very positive development for UAE users, as well as advertisers."
"We are continuing to work with the authorities in the UAE to find a resolution that would lead to the unblocking of the Groups category," Nassef added
Flickr.com has been blocked since 2005 by the two telecommunications companies in the country, du and Etisalat, on the instructions of the TRA, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. Whenever an Internet user in the U.A.E. has tried to access the web site they've been met with a message saying that the site is restricted.
It has never been clear exactly why U.A.E. authorities have blocked Flickr but speculation typically lands on the occurrence of nudity on the site. The policy, which spells out what is blocked, put in place by the country's government and implemented by the two telecommunications companies includes a section on "Internet Content containing Pornography and Nudity". This section states: "This category includes Internet Content that contains material of a pornographic nature, or relates or depicts acts of homosexuality, nudity and sexual material (including stories, jokes, animations, and video) or Internet Content that promotes sexual activity."
Communities have been formed to try to convince the U.A.E. authorities to release the block on Flickr but it's unclear at this point why the decision has been taken and whether public opinion has had any impact on the government finally opening the photo sharing web site.
For users who have wanted to access Flickr during the time it was blocked it wasn't hard to find various methods for doing so. Although circumventing the block is not allowed, that didn't stop many users from doing just that.
That Flickr is now unblocked in the U.A.E. should come as welcome news for photographers and graphics artists around the country.