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What the spy saga tells us about telecoms

What the spy saga tells us about telecoms

Lebanon is basking in peace and (we hope) profitability. But there are spies among us, and that provides yet another reason for more privatization, argues Katherine Azmeh.

July 25, 2010 4:34 by

I confess: I love a good spy story. And if it seems a bit far-flung to make the following connection, please bear with me.

It’s not as if we need another reason to urge Lebanon to privatize its telecoms sector – price, innovation, and technical modernization argue out loud for deregulation in the state-owned communications sector. But allow me to draw the same conclusion from Lebanon’s ongoing spy saga.

Government control of media and communications, the lifeblood of business and commerce, does more than counter the best interests of business. It also runs the dangerous risk of contributing to divisions in society, deterring the kind of optimism that drives economic expansion.

And after the arrest last month of Charbel Qazzi, followed in short order by that of his associate, Tareq Raba’a – both employees at Lebanon’s state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa – it became apparent that Israeli intelligence had deeply infiltrated Lebanon’s telecoms and security sectors. It couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time, as the country is just beginning to reap the social, economic and political benefits of more than five years of turmoil.

These benefits could conceivably come to a screeching halt, as the recent arrests have elucidated a spy ring with its fingers on the pulse of national security and sovereignty. State ownership of Alfa, now corrupted by spies, certainly complicates the work of the international tribunal charged with investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister, Rafik Harriri.

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