Communications Minister plays down political import of new SMS rules

“We don't intend to restrict SMS service providers,” Communications and Information Technology Minister Tarek Kamel said on Tuesday. “We're only regulating their legal status."

Earlier this week, Egypt's National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) imposed new restrictions aimed at tightening control over the SMS messaging services provided by mobile phone companies and media institutions.

According to Kamel, service providers will be given a grace period in which to prepare their legal documentation. “We may even extend the grace period if need be,” he said.

The minister went on to warn against "inappropriate" SMS content, such as false religious edicts or "disinformation" that could adversely affect Egypt's stock market.

“Senders of such content will be questioned by the relevant authorities,“ he said, noting that his ministry lacked authorization to censor content.

“SMS services have become an industry,” Kamel noted. “That’s why they must be properly regulated–so that we can protect it.”

In a related development, the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) criticized the new SMS regulations.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ANHRI noted that the regulations had been issued by both the NTRA and the State Security Service, meaning that the government could simply deny licenses to those institutions deemed to be opposed to its policies.

The rights group went on to link the new regulations to next month's parliamentary elections, contending that the government was trying to tighten its grip on freedom of opinion.

Translated from the Arabic Edition. 

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