Egypt's autocratic Supreme Media Regulation Council is tightening its fist as it has led to the arrest of Abdul Khalik Farouk, an author who wrote a book criticizing how the government is managing the economy. Farouk was charged with publishing "false news" as determined by the country's newly introduced law that govern traditional media, online media, as well as social media.
When Farouk was arrested on 21 October 2018, draft copies of his book, "Is Egypt Really a Poor Country?", were also confiscated by authorities from the publisher as well.
This continues Egypt's stance against media over the past few years under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, which has seen online media websites blocked, ISPs threatened, and a new law requiring digital media publications to apply for licenses at a cost of $2,700.
Farouk was arrested at his home in Cairo. Police, when making the arrest, are reported to have confirmed that he was specifically charged for writing the book which authorities say constitutes false news. A charge which is meant to serve as a warning to anyone else looking to not only criticize the government, but anyone else who offers any analysis on economic or political matters in Egypt that the government doesn't agree with.
This is no different to a new law which is being proposed in Tanzania which will outlaw any independent fact checking or publishing of any data, about Tanzania, that has not been approved by the government. Part of the proposed amendment in Tanzania states that:
"24A.-(1) Any person who is authorised by the Bureau to process any official statistics, shall before publishing or communicating such information to the public, obtain an authorisation from the Bureau. (2) A person shall not disseminate or otherwise communicate to the public any statistical information which is intended to invalidate, distort, or discredit official statistics."
The arrest of Farouk is a far cry from a period in Egypt's recent history which started what has been known as the Arab Spring. A period which saw citizens criticizing the then government and demanding better leadership and service delivery. el Sisi and his colleagues seem to think they have found a way to curb the dissent before it spreads, but how long will their whak-a-mole game last?
It is not yet known, at the time of publishingm when Farouk will appear before a judge and whether or not he will be allowed to present his case legally.