Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1350, (22 June - 5 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Expanding the online ban

More websites accused by the government of promoting extremism and spreading false news are blocked, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Expanding the online ban
Expanding the online ban

Websites which the government says “promote extremism and spread false information about Egypt” have been blocked for a third week.

The government first blocked 12 news websites — Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network, Masr Al-Arabia, Al-Shaab, Huffington Post Arabic, Horreya post, Klmty and Rassd — on 24 May. The move followed an Al-Jazeera ban implemented by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

On Monday the block was expanded to include Turkish websites sympathetic to Qatar and the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The list now includes Daily Sabah’s English, Arabic and German web pages, Turk Press, Arab Turkey, Akhbar Turkiya and Akhbar Al-Alam.

Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have all banned Al-Jazeera from their airwaves and closed the channel’s offices in their countries.

A security official told Al-Ahram Weekly the moves are intended to send a clear message to the “owners of websites that Egypt has a zero tolerance policy towards Brotherhood media which has supported terrorism and spread false news for the last three years”.

On 12 June Al-Badil, Al-Bedaiah News and Medium network were blocked in Egypt. A week earlier access to Mada Masr, Al-Mesryoon, the Daily News Egypt and Al-Borsa was halted.

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Higher Council for Media Regulation, told journalists the assets of the owners of Al-Borsa, Daily News Egypt and Al-Mesryoon had been confiscated by the committee charged with the sequestration of Muslim Brotherhood finances.

Shortly after it was blocked Mada Masr appeared back online only to disappear a few days later. Officials have not given any reasons why.

In August 2015 MPs passed an anti-terrorism law penalising the publishing of “false information”.

A report published in Al-Masry Al-Youm argued Egypt’s ban was far from unique. It pointed out that in April Turkey blocked a number of websites including Wikipedia which the Turkish government said “links Ankara to terrorism”. The ban was implemented under Turkish laws which allow blocking online material which threatens national security.

Turkey’s Hurriyet daily newspaper said Wikipedia had been asked to remove content by writers whom the authorities accuse of supporting terror and of linking Ankara to terror groups. The site did not respond to the demands. Chat and social media platforms including YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook were all banned during the coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

The region has a patchy record on Internet freedoms. This year Tunisia made it into the top 10 rankings of countries that censor the Internet. The Tunisian government now forces Internet providers to report the IP addresses of all bloggers and all online content in the country is filtered as traffic passes through central networks controlled by the security forces.  

In July 2016 the European parliament announced it would draw up legislation to block terrorist content in EU states.

“The counter-terrorism legislation also deals with training and financing as well as Internet propaganda and the misuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes,” said a statement released after the EU parliament approved the plan.

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