In the lead up to planned protests against Egypt's current president, Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, the country's police randomly searched people's digital devices in a bid to arrest those involved in the protests. Part of the plan by the police was to scare off Egyptians for continuing with their online criticism on President Al Sisi.
To date, it is reported that about 1,900 Egyptians have been arrested leading up to the 27 September 2019 protests.
The police activities and the heavily guarded Tahrir square in capital city, Cairo, seemed to have minimized the protests as on 27 September 2019 they were somewhat scattered and not as effective as they were expected to be. Despite Mohamed Ali, who had posted videos alleging corruption within the Egyptian military sparked the recent protests, calling for a million people to march, the polices arrests and use of force seemed to have dettered many, but online criticism on Al Sisi continues.
Opposing free speech
Since Al Sisi became president, Egypt has had a terrible record of opposing the freedom of speech of both the media and of citizens.
During October 2018, Egypt finally implemented their ridiculous law for the regulation of online media publications as well as social media. The country's Supreme Media Regulation Council reported that, as of 21 October 2018, it hadstarted receiving license applications from various Internet news websites. As such, online publications, once approved and have paid a license fee of 50,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $2,700), received a license "allowing" them to publish and be accessible to people in Egypt.
The setting up of Egypt's Supreme Media Regulation Council had more to do with dictating to difficult-to-control online media what it can or cannot publish. For example, in early October 2018 the council issued a statement to all media that it cannot feature nor quote Mortada Mansour, Chairman and President of Zamalek football club, and a former presidential candidate during the 2014 presidential elections in Egypt. This came after Mansour voiced support for a rival football team's supporters (Al Ahly) as they chanted against a Saudi billionare investing in the club. Not only was Mansour banned from being featured by any media in Egypt, the TV show that featured him was also suspended for 15 days.
Curbing online dissent
Another area that the council regulates based on the new law is social media in Egypt. Based on the regulation, social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers will be regulated and treated like media outlets. This part of the law proposes that in order to register for a "social media license" people supply the following information as part of their application to Egypt's government:
- Full Name
- Egyptian ID Number
- E-mail address to be used
- Username/s to be used on the social media platform/s
- Social media platforms the person requires a license for
So far it is not clear whether this part of the law has been enforced or not but it is highly possible that it is the law being used to randomly search citizen's digital devices and look for anywhere where they might have engaged in criticism of Al Sisi on social media.Share this article via: