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Phone mast torched [Gulf Daily News, Manama, Bahrain]
[November 25, 2009]

Phone mast torched [Gulf Daily News, Manama, Bahrain]


(Gulf Daily News (Bahrain) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 25--POLICE were yesterday hunting arsonists who torched a mobile phone mast in Muharraq. The incident on Sunday has been condemned by the Muharraq Municipal Council, which has traditionally opposed the erection of telecom equipment in the area.



However, the incident indicates a major escalation in opposition to masts in Bahrain.

It took place less than a week after a tent, erected by protesters outside the home of an MP who allowed a mast to be erected in his garden, was torched.


The mast targeted on Sunday was located in Arad and belonged to the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), which was announced as Bahrain's third mobile operator in January.

It is expected to start offering mobile services in the country early next year, but company representatives were not available for comment yesterday.

Police confirmed an investigation had been launched, but declined to comment further. Bahrain's five municipal councils have spearheaded opposition to masts, accusing telecom companies of erecting them illegally and without their permission.

However, the Muharraq Municipal Council -- which imposed a blanket ban on new masts in September 2007 -- yesterday urged people against taking the law into their own hands.

"What happened in Arad was wrong and unjustified -- even with people's frustrations over the setting up of masts," said council technical committee chairman and area councillor Ali Al Muqla.

"The whole country is angry over delays in enacting laws and regulations to organise the setting up of masts, but they never took the law into their own hands.

"Burning down the mast shows we are uncivilised and telecommunications companies won't care less if one or two masts are burnt, because they can replace them.

"But our reputation as a peaceful and tolerant country has been tarnished.

"I am a campaigner against masts, but I never dreamt of burning them down. I believe that things can be solved through legal channels rather than arson." Council vice-chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed agreed, but said the incident highlighted the need for proper regulations for masts across the country.

"No-one agrees on arson, but that's what's expected when someone is angry," he said.

"We hope people won't resort to vandalism because a new law is on its way.

"Parliament and the Northern Municipal Council have drafted their own bills to regulate the setting up of masts, which we are comparing to choose the best," Mr Al Mahmeed said.

"Most likely it will be parliament's version, because it includes penalties (for companies that break the law)." The GDN reported at the end of September that municipal councils were planning to dismantle all masts put up without their permission.

Procedures However, they backed down after Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) agreed to come up with new procedures for erecting masts and aerials in three months.

The TRA and municipal councils would then review the sites without permits before informing operators to remove structures that did not comply with the new rules.

It followed claims that telecom companies were paying up to BD1,000 a month to erect masts on private property without council permission.

Bahrain's 2002 Telecommunications Law states that telecom companies can construct installations on private property if an agreement is reached with building owners. However, the Building Regulation Law of 1977 states that landowners require municipality's consent to modify any property. alaali@gdn.com.bh To see more of the Gulf Daily News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.gulf-daily-news.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, Gulf Daily News, Manama, Bahrain Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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