CAIRO: The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) has filed a lawsuit against the government’s decision to impose restrictions on companies that send out mass text messages.
The decision, issued Monday by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, obliges mass text messaging companies to pay hefty fees in order to obtain licenses. It also establishes monitors who will review each message before it is sent to the public.
The AFTE says that the decision represents a “threat to freedom of information and expression.”
In a statement on Wednesday, AFTE stated that it had recently contacted a mass text messaging company called Middle East Network Solutions (MNS) — a company which provides various telecommunications services for newspapers and media groups — in order to inquire about how the conditions of their services may or may not have changed following the government’s decree.
AFTE says it was informed by an MNS representative that its clients will no longer be allowed to send outgoing messages that contain “political content,” and that clients will be obligated to sign an agreement which pledges that this regulation will be followed. Any failure to do so will result in MNS stopping their text messaging services immediately.
In the lawsuit AFTE filed against the government’s decree, it states that the National Telecommunications Regulations Authority (NTRA) — by issuing a decree of this magnitude — has issued restrictions that it does not have the power to issue in the first place. Law no. 10 of 2003 does not authorize the NTRA to impose any new fees on mass text messaging companies, does not give them the power to force these companies to obtain licenses, and does not allow them to monitor the text messages these companies send to the public.
“The imposition of increasing restrictions on freedom of information … has become a systematic policy, especially in the run-up to the elections,” an AFTE spokesman said.
In statements made to the Associated Press, Mahmoud El-Gweini — an advisor to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology — denied that the decision seeks to control political activity. Instead, it aims to organize mass text-messaging activity, he said.