Egypt passes 'cybercrime' legislation amid worsening media freedom
Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi has signed off on a law tightening controls over the internet in the country, the country’s official gazette reported on Saturday.
The "cybercrime" legislation passed allows authorities, through the use of a judge, to order the blocking of websites that "constitute a threat" to Egypt’s national security or economy.
Those who administer or visit such websites, intentionally or "in error without a valid reason", can now face jail time and fines. Such decisions can be appealed.
The law is one of a series of measures that rights groups complain are aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the internet one of the last forums for public debate over Sisi's rule.
In July, parliament passed a law reinforcing the state's control over the internet, including social media accounts of organisations and individuals with more than 5,000 followers.
The council would be authorised to suspend or block any personal account which "publishes or broadcasts fake news or anything (information) inciting violating the law, violence or hatred".
The authorities have insisted that such measures are needed to help tackle instability and terrorism in the country.
But domestic and international rights activists regularly accuse the government of seeking to crush dissent by arresting activists and bloggers and blocking news sites.
More than 500 news and NGO sites are blocked in Egypt, according to the Cairo-based Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Around 100 news sites - including Al Jazeera, Huffington Post Arabic and BuzzFeed - were blocked last year, Reporters Without Borders said.
The sites of independent local news organisations have also been blocked.
Human rights groups regularly criticise moves by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government to curtail free speech.
Egypt is currently placed 161 out of 180 countries in the press freedom rankings of global media rights organisation RSF.
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