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Vodafone: We were forced to send pro-Mubarak texts

Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak forced carrier to send prescripted, propagandistic text messages during recent unrest, Vodafone says.

The Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak forced Vodafone to send out prescripted, propagandistic text messages during the country's recent unrest, the carrier said today in a statement on its Web site.

A text message by someone identified as "Vodafone" was sent to an Associated Press reporter in Egypt on Sunday appealing to the country's "honest and loyal men to confront the traitors and criminals and protect our people and honor," according to an AP report.

Protesters on the streets of Cairo.
Protesters on the streets of Cairo. CBS News

But Vodafone said the Egyptian government can use its emergency powers under the country's Telecommunications Act to force Vodafone and fellow carriers Mobinil and Etisalat to send messages to the people of Egypt--and that Vodafone did not write any such messages or have the ability to respond to the authorities about their content.

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

According to the AP, Vodaphone said the texts had been sent "since the start of the protests."

Mass protests broke out in Egypt last week over the decades-long rule of Mubarak. At first the situation was relatively calm, with the president announcing that he would not seek re-election this September. But things turned violent yesterday when Mubarak supporters began attacking protesters, who are calling for Mubarak's immediate resignation. At least five people were killed and many hundreds injured yesterday, according to reports.

Egypt roundup

Vodafone was one of the carriers that shut down voice services within Egypt on Friday after an order from Egyptian authorities. But in another statement on its Web site, the company says it had little choice in this matter since the Egyptian government has the ability to block such services on its own, and if the government had done so, those services would have taken much longer to get back up and running.

Voice services were quickly restored Saturday. As a type of public apology over the communications blackout, Vodafone is offering credits for service to its customers, proclaiming that "this offer continues until the crisis is over" and security and stability is re-established "in our beloved Egypt."

Internet access, which was also blocked in Egypt late last week, was finally restored yesterday.