This Wednesday Egyptian authorities banned 21 news websites including Al Jazeera and Huffington Post Arabic. According to the State news agency, MENA, the websites were blocked inside Egypt “for having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well (as) publishing lies.” The security source said legal actions against the websites will follow.
Egyptian authorities believe the websites to either be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or funded by Qatar.
The Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood clashed in 2013, when the military removed elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The move is part of a wider trend that suppresses civil liberties and human rights under the guise of enhancing national security.
According to Egyptian independent news site Mada Masr, Interior Ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters they had nothing to do with drafting or executing the decision to block the websites.
Websites in Egypt can be legally blocked either by the issuance of an order by a prosecutor or investigating judge, or, during a state of emergency, via the president in his capacity as military governor. Egypt’s anti-terrorism law, Article 29, stipulates a five-year prison term for anyone who “establishes a telecommunications or internet site to promote ideas or beliefs that encourage committing terrorist acts or to broadcast [information] to mislead security agencies or influence the course of justice with regard to a crime of terrorism.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency on April 9th.
— Heba Farouk Mahfouz (@HebaFarooq) May 24, 2017
— Heba Farouk Mahfouz (@HebaFarooq) October 5, 2015
— Mada Masr مدى مصر (@MadaMasr) May 25, 2017
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took similar actions recently after a war of words with Qatar.
The ban follows recent government raids on several news sites in Cairo. On May 2nd, Egyptian police raided the offices of Al Borsa and the English-language website Daily News Egypt. Police reportedly seized computer equipment and questioned staff about their political coverage.
J. David Thompson, reporting from Tel Aviv on behalf of Lima Charlie News MENA
Follow David on Twitter @JDThompsonLC
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