Saturday, July 11, 2020

WORLD | 06-09-2017 10:03

Egypt expands its clampdown on Internet dissent

424 websites are now inaccessible to Egyptians, says, censorhip watchdog.

The number of blocked websites in Egypt increased to at least 424, as the country forges ahead with censorship measures in place since May, according to a Cairo-based watchdog group.

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), an Egyptian non-governmental organisation, which has been tracking affected sites, said the latest ban includes websites of two rights group and another 17 virtual private network and proxy websites.

On May 24, Egypt's official media reported that the government ordered the blocking of access to 21 news websites, alleging they supported terrorism or reported false news. These included websites affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

However, the ban has since expanded to include independent news websites.

Last month, the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said its website has been blocked in Egypt.

AFTE said the total number of banned sites usually differs depending on which network company is used to access the internet.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a prominent rights group, said authorities have blocked its website since Tuesday morning, describing the move as a "new attack" on freedom of expression and access to information.

It accused the government of censoring "information, news or reports that are different from the rosy and false image the government tries to disseminate on the situation of human rights in Egypt."

The ban shows "not only that it refuses any criticism, but also that its arguments are weak," the group said in a statement.

It vowed to continue its work through publishing updates and reports on human rights through new websites and its Facebook page.

Similar measures have been taken by independent news websites. The government has not officially declared that it is behind the ban.

A state of emergency declared in April, following twin attacks on churches that killed almost 50 people, grants the president special powers that include censoring and confiscating publications, monitoring and intercepting all communication as well as closing any facility.

- dpa

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