Internet in Egypt - Censorship

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By country
  • Censorship
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  • Internet censorship

While the Internet in Egypt was not directly censored under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, his regime kept watch on the most critical bloggers and regularly arrested them. The success of the 2011 Egyptian revolution offers a chance to establish greater freedom of expression in Egypt, especially online. Reflecting these dramatic changes and opportunities in Egypt, in March 2011 Reporters Without Borders moved Egypt from its "Internet Enemies" list to its countries "under surveillance" list.

In March 2012 Reporters Without Boraders reported:

The first anniversary of Egypt’s revolution was celebrated in a climate of uncertainty and tension between a contested military power, a protest movement attempting to get its second wind, and triumphant Islamists. Bloggers and netizens critical of the army have been harassed, threatened, and sometimes arrested.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been leading the country since February 2011, has not only perpetuated Hosni Mubarak’s ways of controlling information, but has strengthened them. Numerous journalists and bloggers seeking to expose the abuses committed during the pro-democratic uprising by certain elements of the Army or the military police have been prosecuted before military courts, and sometimes jailed for several months.

Using data and information gathered during 2010, the status of Internet freedom in Egypt was classified as "Partly Free" in Freedom on the Net 2011 by Freedom House.

In August 2009 the OpenNet Initiative reported finding no evidence of Internet filtering in Egypt in any of the four areas it monitors (political, social, conflict/security, and Internet tools).

A number of Egyptian ISPs offer optional filters to block pornography; TE Data offers Internet services with content controls which eliminate “all of the Internet’s indecent content that might affect your children”.

In 2005 Egyptian authorities continued to both encourage and place restrictions on the use of the Internet. For example, in February, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior ordered Internet café managers and owners to record their customers’ names and ID numbers and threatened to close the cafés if they refused to comply. This action was condemned by the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, which described it as “a gross violation to the right to privacy”. In August 2008, authorities increased the level of surveillance by demanding that Internet café customers provide their names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers in order to receive a text message on their cell phones containing a PIN that they can use to access the Internet.

As the Egyptian blogosphere continued to grow, so did the government’s crackdown on bloggers and Internet users. For example, blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman Amer (“Kareem Amer”) was sentenced in February 2007 to four years in prison for “incitement to hatred of Islam” on his blog and for insulting the president. He has since become the symbol of online repression for the country’s bloggers. Other Egyptian bloggers have also been arrested for their online activities, and some have been sentenced to prison. One example is Mohamed Refaat, editor of the blog Matabbat (, who was arrested in August 2008 under the state emergency law. He was charged with “offending the state institutions, destabilizing public security, and inciting others to demonstrate and strike via the Internet”.

In a landmark 2007 legal case, an administrative court rejected a lawsuit brought by a judge calling for the banning of 49 Web sites in Egypt. The court emphasized the support for freedom of expression as long as such Web sites do not harm the beliefs or public order. However, in May 2009, a Cairo court ruled that the Egyptian government must ban access to pornographic Web sites, because they are deemed offensive to religion and society’s values. The suit was filed by a lawyer who pointed to an Egyptian man and his wife who were sentenced to prison for starting a swingers club via the Internet as an example of “the dangers posed by such offensive Web sites”. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will enforce this court order.

Egypt has witnessed an increase in the use of Facebook for social activism, which alerted the government to the potential force of the site. As a result, there were rumors that it might be blocked, especially after a group of activists managed to recruit supporters using Facebook for the 2008 Egyptian general strike protesting against rising food prices and President Hosni Mubarak’s government.

On 28 March 2011, military officers arrested the 25-year-old blogger, Maikel Nabil, at his home in Cairo. The military prosecutor charged him with "insulting the military establishment" and "spreading false information" for blogs that criticized the army's role during anti-government protests. On 10 April a military court sentenced Nabil to three years in prison, in what Human Rights Watch called a serious setback to freedom of expression in post-Mubarak Egypt. Not only was the sentence severe, but it was imposed on a civilian by a military tribunal after an unfair trial. Along with close to 2,000 other detainees, he was granted a pardon and released on 24 January 2012 after spending ten months behind bars. Immediately after his release, he once more began to challenge the legitimacy of the armed forces and criticizing their record on the eve of the first anniversary of Egypt’s revolution.

Read more about this topic:  Internet In Egypt

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