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Egypt forced firms to send pro-regime SMS: Vodafone

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Egyptian authorities have forced mobile phone operators to broadcast pro-government messages amid protests engulfing the country, British-based operator Vodafone said Thursday. 

Egyptian anti-government demonstrators gather at Cairo's Tahrir square. Egyptian authorities have forced mobile phone operators to broadcast pro-government messages amid protests engulfing the country, British-based operator Vodafone said Thursday.

Vodafone condemned the "unacceptable" situation, which comes after the government cut mobile communications in a bid to prevent demonstrators from coordinating their protests earlier in the crisis.

"Under the emergency powers provisions of the Telecoms Act, the Egyptian authorities can instruct the mobile networks of Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone to send messages to the people of Egypt," Vodafone said in a statement.

"They have used this since the start of the protests. These messages are not scripted by any of the mobile network operators and we do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content," it added.

"Vodafone Group has protested to the authorities that the current situation regarding these messages is unacceptable. We have made clear that all messages should be transparent and clearly attributable to the originator."

Several text messages have been sent out via mobile operators in Egypt since mass protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak began on January 25.

One read: "The armed forces are looking after your security and will not resort to violence against this great people."

"To every mother, father, sister, brother, to every honourable citizen: preserve this country because the fatherland is everlasting," read another.

A third said: "To the youth of Egypt, beware of rumours, listen to the voice of reason, Egypt is above everything, preserve it."

A Vodafone source said they were concerned that people in Egypt were under the impression that operators were willingly issuing messages on behalf of the government.

Vodafone said last week that all mobile operators in Egypt had been ordered to suspend services in some areas amid the protests, and that they were obliged to comply under Egyptian law.

Some services have since been restored.

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