By George Psyllides and Annette Chrysostomou
Police are investigating 18 individuals in connection with the destruction of a telecommunications mast in Limassol last Saturday, according to a spokesman.
At the same time, President Nicos Anastasiades, in a written statement on Wednesday said concerns that 5G was quietly being installed were unfounded. No licence for the installation of 5G has been granted to any company, he said.
He referred to the arson attack on a Cyta mast on Saturday saying it had interrupted the provision of mobile telephony services and endangered the lives and health of vulnerable groups. Anastasiades went on to accuse some quarters of spreading fake news about 5G.
“The only work that is being done is to maintain and upgrade the existing networks to address the growing needs, due to the measures that have been taken,” he added. He said the decision to install the 5G network would be based solely on scientific views, European directives and the recommendations of the World Health Organisation.
The individuals suspected of destroying the Cyta mast on Saturday night were tracked down by the police cyber crime unit after they uploaded posts on social media that may provoke or incite other users to carry out malicious acts.
It is believed that the mast in Limassol was torched because it was linked to the belief by some members of the public that 5G is being rolled out secretly while people are preoccupied by the coronavirus. Some believe the virus can be transmitted via 5G.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou told Alpha television seven people in Nicosia, eight in Limassol, and three in Paphos were found to have made posts that may be seen as incitement.
“A criminal investigation has been launched against each one individually for inciting or encouraging others to commit criminal offences,” Andreou said. “Such posts constitute a criminal offence.” The mast has since been replaced by the state telecoms company Cyta.
On Wednesday, the deputy ministry for research, innovation and digital policy on condemned the arson attack, which affected communications for thousands of people on Saturday night in Limassol, calling it “an extreme and illegal act”.
“This act is, firstly, vandalism against private property – which has nothing to do with 5G networks – and, secondly, it is an attack on the precious commodity of communication in the midst of a pandemic,” the deputy ministry said.
“Telecommunications infrastructure is, at this critical time in the restrictive measures, a valuable tool for work, education, information and entertainment, as well as for people to communicate with their loved ones, authorities and health services – and therefore , its destruction directly and negatively affects society as a whole and efforts to address this unprecedented crisis.”
The ministry stressed that so far, the department of electronic communications which is the competent authority has not granted any licences for the commercial operation of 5G networks.
“However, the government, in compliance with European directives, and on the basis of recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), remains committed to implementing the programme for licensing 5G networks in the context of the country’s digital transformation policy, always with the priority of safeguarding the public interest and protecting public health.”
According to the WHO, viruses cannot travel via radio waves and mobile networks, and scientific research findings show no correlation between the use of wireless technology and the negative effects on public health, as long as regulations are followed.
“The development of 5G networks will play a catalytic role in the development of a dynamic and digital economy and society, and will be a key advantage for the competitiveness of Cyprus and Europe in the global market,” the statement by the deputy ministry concluded.
Cyprus is not the only country where members of the public believe there is a link between the coronavirus and 5G technology.
Facebook users have pushed theories that 5G caused the virus, and Facebook responded by deleting several such groups which had thousands of members.
Anti-5G activists are thought to have set phone masts alight around the UK, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
According to the BBC, there were 20 such suspected phone mast attacks over Easter in the UK.