Press Syndicate chairman to defend blocked news sites unless evidence of ‘harming national security’

Chairman of the Press Syndicate Abdel Mohsen Salama denied on Thursday that the authorities had notified him of the decision to block several Egyptian news websites.

“I will study the situation [of these websites] and I will intervene if to support these sites immediately if there is no evidence to convict them,” said Salama.

Salama said he stands against the blocking of these websites if they are not involved in harming national security.

He expressed his support, however, of blocking non-Egyptian news websites which could harm national security by backing terrorism-related activities.

Salama defended President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s stance against Qatar, describing it as a normal reaction in reference to statements by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani quoted on the official Qatari news agency and Al-Jazeera channel.

The Emir called on Egypt to review its policies toward Qatar and denied that Qatar backs terrorism, though Qatar says the news site was hacked and these statements are false.

The Interior Ministry and communications authorities decided Wednesday night to block 21 news outlets from being accessible in Egypt, according to several local media outlets.

The blocked sites include Qatar-owned news channel Al-Jazeera, other Qatari oulets El-Sharq, Al-Rayah, El-Watan and Qatar’s official news agency, in addition to the US-based news website HuffPost Arabic.

This extended to local news outlets like Cairo Portal, Al-Mesryoon and the Arabic and English editions of independent website Mada Masr.

A number of local news sources quoted anonymous security officials as saying that the decision targeted all media outlets based in Qatar or Turkey that receive financing from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. These websites that allegedly receive Brotherhood funding are Hasm, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Hamas Online, Ikhwan Online, Rassad, Horreya Post and Arabi 21.

The Interior Ministry was unavailable for comment on the matter.

At the time of publishing, the Egyptian government has not released a statement on the block; however, state-run news agency MENA cited a high-ranked official who confirmed the authenticity of the block decision.

Mada Masr released a statement on Tuesday evening: “We believe our website was blocked as part of Egypt’s censorship of 21 news outlets.”

Local outlets have reported that the government censored these websites because their administrations support terrorism, and are managed and financed by the Brotherhood.


Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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