NGOs ask Egypt to repeal or amend new laws curbing online free speech
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Access Now and 30 other NGOs have jointly called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately repeal the new Cybercrime Law and to review and amend the new Media Regulation Law. Both laws post a real danger to Egyptians’ fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information.
Ratified by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on 1 September, the Media Regulation Law reinforces the climate of online repression because, under article 19 of this law, any personal website, blog or social network account with 5,000 or more followers is now subject to the same level of government scrutiny as a media outlet.
As a result, the Supreme Media Regulatory Council now has the right to block or shut down such personal accounts if it deems that they “publish or broadcast false news.”
The Cybercrime Law, which President Sisi ratified on 18 August, imposes draconian restrictions on digital rights, authorizes the mass surveillance of communications and legalizes the government’s existing method of online censorship, initiated in the spring of 2017, of blocking access to websites. More than 500 sites were blocked, including – until recently – RSF’s own site.
This law directly violates article 57 of the Egyptian constitution, which protects privacy and guarantees the confidentiality of correspondence.
The joint appeal, in both the original Arabic and in English translation, can be read below.