Saturday,17 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)
Saturday,17 November, 2018
Issue 1347, (1 - 7 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Online ban

Mohamed Abdel-Baky on the latest developments in the blocking of websites accused of supporting terrorism and spreading false news

On 24 May 21 websites which the government says “promote extremism and spread false information about Egypt” were blocked. The move, announced through the official Middle East News Agency (MENA), was widely seen as a defining step in the government’s emerging policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood’s media outlets and news organisations funded by Qatar.

The ban included the website of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network, Masr Al-Arabia, Al-Shaab, Huffington Post Arabic, Horreya post, Klmty and Rassd. It followed on the heels of the Al-Jazeera ban implemented by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain following last week’s statements by Qatari Emir Hamad bin Tamim to which the three Gulf states took offence.

A security official who asked not to be named told Al-Ahram Weekly that this move was intended to send a clear message to the “owners of these websites that Egypt now has a zero tolerance policy towards Brotherhood media which has been supporting terrorism and spreading false news over the last three years”.

“These websites publish false information to the public. It is not journalism, rather they are platforms being used by an outlawed group to campaign against state institutions to incite public opinion.”

Mada Masr news website, Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt were also blocked afterwards though the ban on Mada Masr has now been lifted.

“We are aware of statements asserting that access to Mada Masr’s website has been unblocked. However, we cannot yet confirm that the block has been completely lifted. We will continue to analyse the situation,” Mada Masr said in a statement.

Daily News Egypt issued a statement confirming its website had been blocked though its print edition was being published as usual.

“The most recent action taken by the government included blocking the websites of both newspapers — even though their names were not among the list of websites announced as having being blocked. We discovered the blocking at the same time as our readers and it was confirmed by our technical services team,” said a joint statement released by Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt.

The two newspapers denied any links to the Muslim Brotherhood and said all the information related to ownership and assets was in the public domain. In December the companies’ assets were frozen by the prosecutor for alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

 “The two newspapers filed a memorandum to both the Press Syndicate and the Supreme Press Council regarding the websites which are licensed by the Supreme Press Council and operate in accordance with the law,” the statement added.

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), told the press he supports the government’s decision to block the websites.

“It is time to make it clear to the Muslim Brotherhood that we stand against media platforms that promote radicalisation and support terrorism. The banned websites had a systematic policy of publishing false news about the Egyptian army and the government,” said Ahmed.

He added that the HCMR had been monitoring all sites which incite terrorism and spread false information.

“Egypt is not the only country to ban websites which promote terrorism or threaten national security. A number of countries, including France, the UK and Germany, have done so,” said Ahmed.

Press Syndicate Chairman Abdel-Mohsen Salama has formed a legal committee to examine the legality of the government’s decision to block some websites.

“A number of the banned websites belong to licensed newspapers and are therefore subject to Egyptian law. We are coordinating with the HCMR to assess the legality of the ban and determine whether these publications have violated the press law,” said Salama.

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