Egypt president approves law clamping down on social media

Egypt president approves law clamping down on social media
2 min read
02 September, 2018
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ratified a law granting authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country as part of tightening internet controls.
The law is one of a series of measures that target freedom of expression [Getty]

A law granting Egyptian authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country as part of tightening internet controls was approved by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the official gazette said on Saturday.

Approved by parliament in July, the state's Supreme Council for Media Regulations will have the power to place people with more than 5,000 followers - on social media or with a personal blog or website - under supervision.

The council will 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 new law is one of a series of measures that rights groups say are aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the internet one of the last forums for public debate over Sisi's rule.

In August, the president signed off on another piece of legislation allowing authorities, through 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.

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.  

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 critics 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 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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