Egypt's Minister of Communication Mohamed Salem defended mobile networks on Saturday, saying that the then-Mubark regime gave the networks no choice but to cut off communications during the first days of the January 25 revolution last year.
Salem’s statements come as many activists have been urging people not to use their mobile phones on 28 January in protest against the networks who left millions of Egyptian residents out of contact during the revolution.
The communications blackout on 28 January 2011, say activists, meant few media reports during the critical days; less organised protests; families and friends out of reach and unable to check on each other as they disappeared; and provided a cover for police to use violent – and deadly – force to try to quell the protests that were quickly swelling into a full-blown uprising.
The communications minister countered, however, that the communications companies were bound by a law that obligated networks to cut their connections if requested by the government. Salem pointed out that the networks have suffered many losses, themselves, as a result. He reminded listeners that communications networks provide employment for many Egyptian youth and contribute to the development of the country through investment plans.
Salem confirmed that a proposed amendment to the communications law has been sent to the cabinet for approval to prevent such an abuse from reoccurring. If approved by the cabinet it will be transferred to the newly-elected parliament for approval.
The amended version gives the president the right to cut off communication only in times of war or natural crisis and only after his decision is approved by both the cabinet and parliament.