Egyptian telecoms amendments come under fire

Adel Allakany and Ahram Online, Saturday 14 May 2011

Industry experts say revisions to telecoms laws should limit the president's powers to cut off phone and internet services to guard against abuse

The Societal Discussion Forum, hosted by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), has seen a debate on suggested amendments to laws regulating communications in Egypt.

The disputed amendments, introduced by the MCIT, grant the president of the republic the rights to cut off all telecoms and internet services in the event of national disasters, wars or threats to national security.

Attended by group of IT experts and industry stakeholders, the forum aims at revamping communication regulations in Egypt.

Participants in the forum said that granting the president the absolute right to cut off all information lines opens the door for abuse, drawing similarities to events in Egypt in January.

They also demanded that the law specifies the type of incident where such action is required. Some suggested that the approval of the People’s Assembly should be granted before communications are halted.

Omar El-Sherif, the legal consultant for the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, said that the amendments did not include the People Assembly’s approval so as to ensure prompt action could be taken.

Internet service was cut off for five days and mobile services for one day during the wave of protests that swept across Egypt and led to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

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