Egypt passes bill to block popular social media accounts

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2011 file photo, "We are the men of Facebook" is written on the ground as anti-government protesters gather in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt. The staunchly pro-government Egyptian parliament passed a bill Monday, July 16, 2018, targeting popular social media accounts that authorities accuse of publishing “fake news,” the latest move in a five-year-old drive to suppress dissent and silence independent sources of news. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)
FILE - In this March 30, 2011, file photo, a mural depicting a man in shackles and the Facebook logo and a mobile phone is seen on the wall of the University of Helwan arts academy in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt. The staunchly pro-government Egyptian parliament passed a bill Monday, July 16, 2018, targeting popular social media accounts that authorities accuse of publishing “fake news,” the latest move in a five-year-old drive to suppress dissent and silence independent sources of news. (AP Photo/Manoocher Deghati, File)

CAIRO — Egypt's parliament has passed a bill targeting popular social media accounts that authorities accuse of publishing "fake news," the latest move in a five-year-old drive to suppress dissent and silence independent sources of news.

The legislation was adopted late on Monday by the staunchly pro-government chamber, though details of the new bill only emerged on Wednesday.

The legislation labels personal social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets and empowers authorities to block them on the grounds of publishing "fake news."

There was no elaboration on what is or is not considered as "fake news."

The bill still needs to go to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for ratification — a foregone conclusion since such bills are often inspired by his government. The general-turned-president, in power since 2014 , has overseen Egypt's largest crackdown on dissent

El-Sissi won a second, four-year term in March after running virtually unopposed. In 2013, as defense minister, he led the military's ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. Authorities have since jailed thousands, mostly Islamists but also secularists behind a 2011 uprising that toppled Morsi's predecessor, longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities have over the past year blocked some 500 websites, including those of independent media and rights groups. The authorities have claimed such websites supported "terrorism" or reported "false news."

Egypt was ranked 161 out of 180 countries in the 2017 Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters Without Borders advocacy group.

Under the new legislation, the power to block popular accounts will rest with the country's chief media regulator, hand-picked by the president. He would also have the authority to file criminal complaints against platforms and individuals accused of such offences as "inciting people to violate laws" and "defamation or discrimination against individuals and religions."

Prominent journalists have decried the bill as unconstitutional and a violation of basic press freedoms, saying they grant far-reaching powers to authorities to censor the press, revoke media licenses and restrict journalists' work.

The pro-government chairman of the journalists' union, Abdel-Mohsen Salama, has welcomed the legislation, but six members of the union board have protested the bill's "vague phrasing" that, they say, allows authorities to control the media.

They also argue that the bill allows the detention of journalists pending trial in violation of the constitution, a relatively liberal document adopted in 2014 but which critics say has often been ignored or misinterpreted by the government as it presses on with its suppression of freedoms.

"It is a sad day for the press," said Yahia Kalash, the former head of the journalists' union.

The legislation also bans establishing online media outlets without a government license and empowers media regulators to block existing online media outlets serving as a refuge for young writers and liberal activists escaping government restrictions on the freedom of expression.

People also read these

Suicide bomber targets Sikhs, Hindus in...

Jul 1, 2018

A suicide bomber has targeted a group of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan's eastern city of...

Official: Gunmen kill 4 civilians in mosque in...

Jul 23, 2018

Afghan official: Gunmen open fire inside mosque in eastern province, killing 4 worshippers

Acid victims redefine beauty in Bangladesh...

Mar 8, 2017

A unique fashion show in Bangladesh featuring acid victims as catwalk models has aimed to redefine...

Bangladesh reinstalls justice statue that irked...

May 28, 2017

Bangladesh has reinstalled a statue of Lady Justice after its removal in the face of Islamist...

Wounded and 'afraid,' Rohingya seek Bangladesh...

Sep 5, 2017

With thousands of Rohingya refugees streaming across the swampy border into Bangladesh, one...

About Us

Get all the up-to-date breaking news about politics, business, entertainment, sports, lifestyles, weather, traffic, and local news in a seamless digital environment only in Morning Dispatcher.

Contact us: sales[at]morningdispatcher.com

Subscribe Now!

Quick Links

HomePress