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Egypt orders mobile phone carriers to suspend service

January 28, 2011 |  2:03 pm

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The Egyptian government has ordered all wireless phone carriers to curb mobile services in the country.

Vodafone, one of Egypt's largest mobile providers, said in a statement:

All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course.

The mobile phone shutdown follows the government ordering the suspension of Internet service on Friday, just after midnight Egypt time.

On Thursday, BlackBerry Wed data was blocked, and on Tuesday, Twitter and Facebook were unavailable to Egyptians.

The protests in Egypt have centered around frustrations with high unemployement and the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for more than three decades.

The lack of Internet access has caused alarm among many human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"Egypt's information blackout is an extreme step designed to disrupt planned marches, to block images of police brutality, and to silence dissent once and for all," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "But the shuttering of the internet and most telecommunications by the Egyptian government also means that the government can take unmonitored action against its citizens, which poses a dire threat to human rights."

The Center for Democracy and Technology called the Web shutdown a stunning and counterproductive step backwards.

"This action is inconsistent with all international human rights norms, and is unprecedented in Internet history," said Leslie Harris, the nonprofit group's president. "Egypt's actions will only fuel unrest and make peaceful resolution of grievances far more difficult."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Egyptian riot police face protestors on the Kasr Al Nile Bridge on Jan. 28 in downtown Cairo. Thousands of police are on the streets of the capital and hundreds of arrests have been made in an attempt to quell anti-government demonstrations. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

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