Human rights group calls on Egyptian government to review website block

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) called on the government to review its decision to block certain websites. The group believes the ban should be made only after proving the activity of the blocked sites indeed points to terroristic activity, and the judiciary should be the body that issues such a verdict as it is responsible for protecting the basic rights and freedoms of the citizens.

EOHR said in a report on Tuesday that the authorities had to distinguish between websites that promote violence and terrorism and the news websites that transmit news to citizens. They pointed out there is a differentiation between governmental opposition and support of terrorism, as not all websites opposed to government policies incite acts of terror.

The organization called for the abolition of the block on websites that have not been proven to incite violence and terrorism, in pursuit of the constitution and international covenants. They explained that if the websites did provide evidence of supporting terrorism, they must be blocked through the judiciary and not by the administrative authority.

EOHR said that Egypt has witnessed a violent wave of terrorist attacks over the past four years, different from the terrorism that struck during the 1980s and 1990s. The current terrorist operations have taken on a variety of forms on the ground, most notably targeting state structures, security forces and economic institutions.

The report said that the government, as part of counter-terrorism efforts, blocked more than 60 opposition websites, including 48 news sites, in May and June, claiming that it included content that supported terrorism and extremism and deliberately spread lies.

The government claimed that the move was legitimate based on emergency and counterterrorism laws. The government also said that other countries were blocking sites for various reasons, including China, Syria, Iran, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan.

The report said that the block coincided with the start of discussions on the maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, the matter that violates the right of access to information and the right to freedom of expression, as well as Article 57 of the Constitution, which stipulates the right to access and use of telecommunications and fair access to technology. 

Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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