Mozambique 'blocked SMSes after riots'

2010-09-10 21:20

Maputo - Mozambique's telecom authority ordered cellphone operators to block all text messages after a viral campaign sparked riots last week, independent media said on Friday.

The National Communications Institute of Mozambique sent a letter ordering state cellphone operator mCel and the private Vodacom to suspend text messaging on Monday afternoon, reported Mediafax newsheet.

"The two carriers obeyed the instruction because it had been given by the government as a decision framed in terms of national security," it said.

Text messages last week urged Mozambicans to protest in the streets against bread price hikes of up to 22% last week.

Thirteen people died and over 400 were injured in clashes between police and protestors in the capital Maputo and nearby Matola.

On Monday many cellphone users found they could not send text messages, though they could still make phone calls.

The government on Tuesday restored bread subsidies and unveiled austerity measures. Text messaging was down until Thursday.

A communications ministry spokesperson denied any order to shut down text messaging, while Mcell declined to comment. mCel and Vodacom had both blamed technical troubles for the texting block.

Only about a quarter of Mozambique's 20 million people have cell phones, but that's twice as many people as have access to electricity, and the number has been growing by about 50% a year since 2004, according to the UN's International Telecommunication Union.