Egypt's government warns ISPs who ignore orders to block websites

Egypt's parliament has issued a warning to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the northern Afrikan country who ignore court orders issued by government to block certain websites. The websites in question are being blocked as part of Egypt's cybercrime bill as they, according to Egypt's authorities, present a national security threat.

The ISPs that do not cooperate will be subjected to a hefty fine and a minimum sentence of one year's imprisonment if they don't act on any blocking ruling from a Criminal Court.

What is still interesting is that the websites, so far, that Egypt's authorities have issued blocks on are news media websites. These include a number of news outlets such as Huff Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN, to name a few. This all started in May 2017 when Egypt decided to block several Qatar-linked online media websites such as Al-Jazeera, The Huffington Post Arabic, Qatari News Agency and more, citing that the online publications "fabricate news" and also incite terrorism.

The total number of blocked websites, which also include human rights websites, is now approximately 500 websites.

What kick-started all this was allegedly false footage, which Qatar News Agency broadcast, attributed to Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, where he criticizes Egypt and other North Afrikan and Middle Eastern countries. Despite statements that the footage was false, Egypt's authorities have remained steadfast in implementing website blocks including the launch of a WhatsApp helpline where Egyotians can report fake news websites for government to investigate and possibly block.

The Egyotian governments actions haven't gone unnoticed and have received harsh criticism.

"Freedom of the press is essential to any election process. The Egyptian government should immediately take steps to ensure that all news websites and internet tools and services are available to citizens seeking to get and share information,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East, and North Africa Program Coordinator at CPJ.

Here is a list of the blocked websites.

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