Saturday, October 16, 2010

Egyptian government robs opposition of use of mass-SMS's ahead of elections

Egypt's telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages ahead of legislative elections. Companies sending out text messages en masse – known as SMS aggregators – must now obtain licenses.
Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilise voters. Reform groups in Egypt have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organise and mobilise their supporters, tools which have enabled them to sidestep government harassment. The Muslim Brotherhood used text messages as a campaign tool for its candidates in the 2005 elections. That year it won 88 seats, or 20 per cent of the total parliament seats.
The telecommunicatoins ministry said the decision was not supposed to curb political activity, but rather to protect people from "random" text messages about sensitive issues.

Only registered political parties can apply to use mass text messages in the upcoming elections. The National Democratic Party, the ruling party of presidnet Hosni Mubarak, has already been granted a permit. The Muslim Brotherhood, though, which cannot compete as a party as it is officially banned and whose candidates can only have participate as independents, will not be able to use them.
Moustafa el-Naggar, a member of a new reform movement led by Nobel Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, said his group was contemplating using mass text messages to mobilise its members. "They are trying to strip the opposition of all its tools. But we will find new ones," he said.

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