No block on WhatsApp or Viber — yet

No decisions have yet been taken to cut or restrict WhatsApp and Viber services in Egypt, said Telecom Minister Atef Helmy at a conference Wednesday, according to the state news agency, MENA.

The ministry has nothing to do with the content of the applications, he said, adding that he has not issued any decisions nor been in touch with anyone to block these widely-used web-based communication applications, MENA reported.

In June, state-owned Al-Ahram reported that the National Regulatory Authority was planning to block the applications due to economic and security concerns.

In a phone-in interview with ONtv, Helmy said Tuesday that news of Egypt’s government blocking the applications had caused some disturbance among mobile users. He affirmed that no decision had yet been taken and that no decision will be finalized without thorough study.

“There are social consequences related to a large portion of the population who uses these services, and there are economic aspects as well — but if we find that these services threaten national security, we will certainly take the appropriate measures,” Al-Dostour quoted Helmy as saying.

Earlier in the summer, the regulator had reportedly set up a committee to monitor the use of WhatsApp, which allows free messaging, and Viber, which allows free international calling, in order to decide whether to ban them, restrict their usage, or whether to maintain free use to Egyptian mobile data users.

Saudi Arabia’s telecom regulator has already banned use of the web-based communication application Viber, which is hard for the state to monitor. It also deprives licensed telecom companies of revenue from international calls and texts, Reuters reported.

Telecom operators worldwide have reportedly suffered losses due to applications such as these which offer free text and calling services to data users, Al-Akhbar Al-Youm said, citing a Financial Times report.

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