The list of blocked websites in Egypt keeps growing, as the
government widens what some say is an unprecedented crackdown on both
local and international digital outlets. So far, 114 websites have been blocked
in the north African nation since May 24, according to the latest
figures from the non-governmental organization Association for Freedom
of Thought and Expression.
A majority of these are news websites, but also included are
platforms that can be used to access blocked sites or that allow for
anonymous browsing and communication.
The affected websites include sites like Mada Masr, the financial newspaper Al Borsa,
and Huffington Post Arabic. Twelve websites linked to Al Jazeera were
also been blocked. Medium, the online publishing platform, was also
The outage also affected
Tor, the free software that provides users with online anonymity, and
Tor bridges, which helps users circumvent the blocking of Tor itself.
The website of the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), an
international network that monitors internship censorship and
surveillance, was also blocked.
The growing censorship comes as the government says it’s cracking down on websites that are “publishing false information” and “supporting terrorism.”
(Link in Arabic) Egypt is currently in the midst of a three-month state
emergency, following twin attacks on churches that killed almost 50
people in April.
The country is also part of a Saudi-led coalition that has put a blockade on Qatar, demanding, among other things,
the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera media network which it
considers to a be a propaganda tool for Islamists. The government of
president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is also embroiled in a maritime
demarcation agreement over its decision to vote on the transfer of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia—a move that has angered many Egyptians.
However, journalists and activists say the campaign is suppressing
free expression and voices critical of the government. Some are accusing
the regime of failing to disclose any judicial or administrative decision to block the sites—or whether emergency law provisions were applied.
“Even in the darkest days of the repressive Mubarak era, the
authorities didn’t cut off access to all independent news sites,” Najia
Bounaim, Amnesty International’s north Africa campaigns director, said.
In a June 19 report, OONI stated that deep packet inspection technology was being used to monitor and block these websites. Mada Masr, one of the blocked sites, also reported
that the decision to block the sites was carried through a “centralized
decision” by the government rather than by the country’s telecoms or
internet service providers.
Since going offline, sites like Mada have been publishing articles on
Facebook. Lina Attallah, the editor of the site, said the strategy of
blocking the sites works to the government’s advantage for now.
did something more grave like arresting team members or me it would
make big noise, whereas blocking the website is the best way to paralyze
us without paying a high price for it,” Attallah told Reuters.
*Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, courtesy of Reuters
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified the maritime border demarcation agreement
that cedes sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia
on Saturday, according to a Cabinet statement.
The Tiran and Sanafir agreement was passed with a majority in Parliament on June 14, with only 119 MPs voting against it.
Sisi was able to seal the deal with Saudi Arabia after the Supreme
Constitutional Court temporarily froze two contradictory rulings, one
issued by the State Council in January and the other by the Court of
Urgent Matters in April, on Wednesday.
In June 2016 the State
Council’s Court of Administrative Justice (CAJ) annulled the agreement
signed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail in April of the same year. This
was followed by two Court of Urgent Matters rulings on September 29 and
December 31 to overturn the CAJ’s decision.
However, on January 16, the
State Council’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the initial June
ruling, stating that the deal was a concession of territory, an act that
is prohibited per Article 151 of the Constitution. On April 2, the
Court of Urgent Matters overturned the CAJ’s decision.
political parties and prominent politicians held a press conference on
June 12, ahead of Parliament’s discussion of the deal, to announce a
series of sit-ins protesting the agreement which many members of Egypt’s
opposition hailed as unconstitutional.
The presser was attended by
dozens of activists and members of several political parties, as well as
former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Khaled Ali. Also in
attendance were ousted chief of the Central Auditing Authority Hesham
Geneina, expelled member of Parliament Mohamed Anwar Sadat, critical
journalist Khaled al-Balshy, National Council for Human Rights member
George Ishaq and former Ambassador Masoum Marzouk.
Parliament’s approval, hundreds of members of professional syndicates signed statements in opposition to the Tiran and Sanafir agreement,
including 850 journalists, 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s
general assembly and more than 600 members of the Cinema Syndicate,
Since the June press conference security forces
have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across several
governorates, apprehending more than 120 activists and protesters seen
to oppose the deal.
three-year prison sentences handed to 32 Tourah Cement Company security
workers earlier this month were reduced on Sunday to two months in a
ruling by the Maadi Appeals Court.
Maadi Criminal Court announced
the initial prison terms on June 4 on charges that asserted the workers
had assaulted a police captain, obstructed justice and used violence to
According to the findings of the Maadi
Appeals Court published by the Arabic Network for Human Rights
Information (ANRHI), the court dismissed all criminal charges leveled
against the 32 workers in its Sunday ruling, except the charge of
resisting authorities, as it found them guilty of obstructing police
efforts to apprehend a wanted worker by collectively assisting in his
Lawyer Gamal Eid, the director of the ANRHI, stated that
the appeals court’s Sunday ruling represented a move “from grave
injustice, to lesser injustice.”
The appeals court’s Sunday
ruling was based on Article 375 of Egypt’s Penal Code. “Anyone who uses
force, violence, terrorism, threats or illegal measures to attack or
attempt to attack authorities is liable to imprisonment for a period not
exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding LE 100,” the article
The workers are currently being held in the 15th of May prison, located on the outskirts of Cairo.
Those implicate in the case were among the 75 full-time security
personnel that initiated a sit-in in March, demanding full-time
contracts and retroactive payment of wages, as some had worked full time
at the company for up to 10 to 15 years on temporary or part-time
Police arrested 32 workers of the workers on the
Tourah Cement Company’s grounds on May 22. The prosecutor referred them
to trial the following day, and the court proceedings commenced on May
The Tourah Cement Company – which had requested the
deployment of police forces to disperse the workers’ sit-in protest –
has not stated whether it will meet workers’ demands for full-time
employment and benefits and reinstate those that have been arrested.
Lawyer Haiytham Mohamadein expressed skepticism that those who had been
involved in the sit-in would be allowed back into the company, let
alone be reinstated to their former jobs with full-time contracts and
benefits. Mohamadein said that the Tourah Cement Company is seeking to
employ new security workers through a private contracting company.
A host of organizations and individuals, both in Egypt and abroad, have
expressed solidarity with the imprisoned Tourah Cement Company workers
in a petition calling for the release of the 32 detainees.
Messages of international solidarity also have poured in from dozens of
trade unionists and labor activists from Australia, Austria, Canada,
Spain, UK, USA, among other countries.
The Tourah Cement Company
workers are the latest labor group to be arrested and referred to trial
for industrial action. In April, police arrested 16 protesting Telecom
Egypt Company workers in Cairo, while in January police forces
forcefully dispersed a sit-in at the IFFCO Oils Company in the Suez
Governorate, briefly arresting scores of workers.
2016, police were deployed to disperse two sit-ins at the privately
owned Egyptian Fertilizers Company (EFC) and the Egyptian Basic
Industries Corporation (EBIC), both of which are owned by the
billionaire Nassif Sawiris.
In September 2016, police conducted
dawn raids at the apartments of bus drivers from the Public Transport
Authority who had been planning a partial strike, detaining six drivers,
two of whom may still face trial. In May 2016, military police
surrounded a sit-in led by Alexandria Shipyard Company workers and
imposed a lockout on the company. Twenty-six civilian workers were
referred to military trial.
of members of professional syndicates have signed statements in
opposition to Parliament’s recent approval of the Tiran and Sanafir
agreement, brokered by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016.
Eight hundred and fifty journalists issued a statement on Sunday
announcing that they reject the agreement, which concedes sovereignty
over the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, describing it as invalid
and “demanding that state institutions respect the Constitution and the
law, and the blood of martyrs who defended Egyptian land.”
Journalists Syndicate announced that it would launch an investigation
into the sit-in held in its headquarters on Wednesday, protesting the
Hatem Zakareya, a member of the syndicate’s board, told Mada
Masr that no request was submitted before the protest, in violation of
the syndicate’s bylaws. He added that investigations will also be
launched into footage aired on Al Jazeera and other pro-Muslim
Brotherhood channels from inside the building and its entrance showing
non-syndicate members attending the protest.
Gamal Abdel Rehim,
one of four syndicate board members who signed a statement rejecting the
agreement, told Mada Masr that allegations that Muslim
Brotherhood-affiliated channels entered the syndicate are untrue,
arguing that it is not necessary to submit a request before initiating
sit-ins at the syndicate.
“Never in the history of the syndicate
has any group submitted a request to start a sit-in,” he said, adding
that it is common for non-syndicate members to join political action
taking place within the syndicate.
A statement was also signed
by 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s general assembly denouncing
the deal, labeling it unconstitutional. The statement criticized
“attempts to pressure opposition and the blocking of websites that
attempt to reveal the truth of the matter.”
The statement mirrors
that issued by the Journalists Syndicate, calling on citizens to
exercise their constitutional right to express their opinions peacefully
“in defense of the blood of the martyrs who died to defend the unity of
Head of the Engineers Syndicate Tarek
al-Nabarawy said last Friday that in his personal opinion the islands
are Egyptian, adding that the syndicate should not be involved in
Akram Ismail, member of the Engineers Syndicate and the
Bread and Freedom Party told Mada Masr: “Major national causes cannot
be separated from syndicate work,” adding that syndicates, parties and
social media are the only remaining platforms for political action
following the crackdown on the street movement and blocking of websites.
Ismail said that the fact that three leading figures in the syndicate
expressed their opposition to the agreement on their personal Facebook
pages indicates the syndicate’s position, even if no official statement
Members of the Cinema Syndicate also released a
statement inviting people to protest the transfer of the islands “using
all peaceful and legal means.”
They called for a protest at their
headquarters on Saturday to oppose the agreement, however the protest
was canceled due to the heavy security presence in the area.
members of the Doctors Syndicate board also announced their opposition
to the agreement in a statement. However Mona Mina, the syndicate’s
secretary general, wrote on her Facebook page: “As a vocational
institution, the syndicate has nothing to do with this important
political and national cause.”
Members of the Lawyers Syndicate also held a protest inside syndicate headquarters on Tuesday to express their objection.
Since discussions of the maritime border agreement reached Parliament,
security forces have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across
several governorates, targeting activists and protesters opposing the
(ANSA) - Rome - Egyptian authorities have turned
down a request from Rome prosecutors probing the Cairo torture
and murder of Giulio Regeni to be present at the questioning of
Egyptian police officers who carried out investigations into the
Friuli-born Cambridge University researcher.
They said Egyptian law forbids the presence of foreign
magistrates during judicial activity.
Regeni's parents Claudio and Paola were informed of the
refusal during a meeting Friday with Rome chief prosecutor
Giuseppe Pignatone and his assistant Sergio Colaiocco.
Cairo prosecutors have, however, sent their Italian
counterparts a second report on testimony from the seven
policemen who probed Regeni, who disappeared on January 25 2016
and whose mutilated body was found on the road to Alexandria
eight days later.
The testimony is a summary of what the agents said and not
their testimony in full, judicial sources said.
Italian magistrates are hoping for a third tranche of
documents, starting with questioning of the national security
chief who investigated Regeni a few days before his
disappearance, as well as testimony given in March 2016 by the
agent who searched the home of the alleged head of a kidnapping
gang suspected of abducting and robbing foreigners.
Regeni, 28, went missing in the Egyptian capital on January
25, 2016, on the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the
uprising that ousted former strongman and president Hosni
His severely tortured, mutilated body was found on February
3 in a ditch on the city's outskirts.
Egypt has denied speculation its security forces, who are
frequently accused of brutally repressing opposition, were
involved in the death of the Cambridge doctoral student.
Regeni was researching street vendors' trade unions, a
Egyptian and Italian prosecutors have been working on the
case but Rome has yet to send a new ambassador to Cairo in
protest at the lack of progress.
"Italy has mourned the killing of one of its studious young
people, Giulio Regeni, without full light being shed on this
tragic case for a year and despite the intense efforts of our
judiciary and our diplomacy," President Sergio Mattarella said
on the first anniversary of Regeni's disappearance.
"We call for broader and more effective cooperation so that
the culprits are brought to justice".
Premier Paolo Gentiloni expressed his support for Regeni's
family and said his government was determined to get to the
Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano echoed his words and said
that the young man's death "deprives all of us of a generous
heart that could have done a great deal for others".
The message on the foreign ministry website said that "the
tragic death of Giulio Regeni is still an open wound not only
for his family, who remain in our thoughts, but for our entire
A video recently surfaced in which the head of the Cairo
street traders' union, Mohammed Abdallah, secretly filmed
Regeni asking him questions about the union using a police
Abdallah said he was doing his patriotic duty because Regeni,
he said, was a spy.
Egypt has furnished several explanations for Regeni's death
ranging from a car accident to a gay fight to a kidnapping, all
of which have been dismissed by Italy.
Suspicion has fallen on seven members of the Egyptian police
and intelligence services who used Abdallah as an informant and
who later were responsible for wiping out the alleged kidnapping gang.
Regeni's personal documents were allegedly found in the house
of the sister of one of the alleged gang's members.
There seem to have been signs of Egyptian cooperation on
Giulio Regeni's death thanks to the work of Rome prosecutors but
there is absolutely no evidence of true cooperation from
Egyptian authorities, Regeni's parents said recently.
Paola and Claudio Regeni urged that Italy's ambassador to
Cairo not return to Egypt, since this "would give a signal of
detente that must not be given", and stressed the importance of
not sending Egypt spare parts for F35 fighter jets until justice
has been served.
have arrested a total of 60 people connected to political action
against the agreement to concede sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir
islands to Saudi Arabia, according to the Freedom for the Brave
The nationwide arrests commenced after Parliament
approved the agreement on Wednesday night, with police moving to detain
political activists and party members in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta,
Sharqiya, Beni Suef, Fayoum, Luxor, Port Said and Suez.
Mohamed Abdel Aziz told Mada Masr that those arrested come from several
political parties, including the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the
Constitution Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, the Popular Current
Party and the Karama Party, as well as from Egypt’s independent activist
community, all of whom voiced their opposition to the agreement.
According to Abdel Aziz, security forces arrested many of the activists
and party members from their homes, including Hassan Ahwany who is
being questioned by the Dokki prosecution in Cairo and is being
represented by Abdel Aziz.
Many of those arrested will be
questioned by prosecutors on Friday, including six people who were
arrested in Port Said and Tanta, according to the Front to Defend
The FDEP has added that activists Mahmoud
Nagib and Israa Fahid face charges of incitement to protest and
obstructing public transportation, and that three people arrested in
Luxor on Thursday are in the National Security Agency’s custody. In
Ismailia, Constitution Party member Ahmed Santos was questioned by the
prosecutor, who has issued Santos a 15-day detention order pending an
According to lawyer Abdel Aziz Yousef, the prosecutor
issued Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Islam Marei a 15-day
detention order pending investigation into charges of incitement against
the regime; insulting state institutions, including the Armed Forces,
police and the judiciary; distributing anti-government flyers; and using
social networks for incitement against state institutions.
Aziz described the arrests as “ferocious,” saying security forces are
attempting to prevent any mobilization against the Tiran and Sanafir
agreement. The scope of the arrests, he asserted, is disproportionate to
the protests that have taken place in reaction to the agreement.
Police arrested eight people in the proximity of the Journalists
Syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Wednesday night, which was
the site of a protest against the Tiran and Sanafir agreement. All
eight were released yesterday on LE10,000 bail.
dispersed a demonstration on Wednesday in front of the Egyptian Social
Democratic Party’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, barricading the
protesters inside the building, according party member Ziad al-Eleimi.