Vodafone accuses Egypt's Mubarak of sending propaganda texts

Vodafone has accused the Egyptian government of employing its mobile network to send unattributed pro-government text messages, while there are also concerns over some of its staff in the country.

Vodafone was one of three mobile phone companies that was instructed to send out text messages since protests broke out over a week ago against the leadership of President Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years.

Vodafone was ordered to disable its services as part of a country-wide clampdown on internet and mobile communication, but it says the company was told to re-enable its network to send out government-sanctioned messages before disabling it again.

Reuters reported that it has seen one of these text messages, from February 2, which gave the details of the location and time of a pro-Mubarak rally.

Vodafone said that it made it clear to the Egyptian government that text messages should be transparent and it should be clear who sent them. It said that these messages were not written by the mobile network operators and it could not respond to authorities on their content.

The situation may be even grimmer than just the unattributed text messages, as Vodafone has also reported that one of its engineers in Egypt had been seriously engineered, while another is missing.

Vodafone’s data services are back online today, but its text message service remains offline. The country’s internet was restored yesterday after Mubarak promised he would not run for re-election in September.

“The current situation regarding these messages is unacceptable,” Vodafone said.