British government protests over pro-Mubarak texts 'from Vodafone'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, has complained to the Egyptian government after Vodafone revealed that it was forced to send out pro-Mubarak texts during the unrest in the country over the last week.

Last Sunday, some reporters received a text calling for people to 'confront the traitors and criminals and protect our people and our honor'. Another called for Egyptians to attend a pro-Mubarak rally.

But Vodafone has said it was forced to send the messages. Other operators, including local ISP Mobinil and the UAE's Etisalat, are believed to have done the same.

"Under the emergency powers provisions of the Telecoms Act, the Egyptian authorities can instruct the mobile networks of Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone to send messages to the people of Egypt. They have used this since the start of the protests," the company says in a statement.

"These messages are not scripted by any of the mobile network operators and we do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content."

Vodafone says, though, that it's protested that the messages are unacceptable. "We have made clear that all messages should be transparent and clearly attributable to the originator," it says.

Yesterday, William Hague described the events of the last 24 hours as 'reprehensible'.

"The abuse of internet and mobile networks and, in particular, today's increased intimidation and harassment of journalists are unacceptable and disturbing," he said.

"Today's scenes underline further the imperative need for the Egyptian authorities urgently to commit to an orderly transition to a broader-based Government that respects the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people."