first_img Help by sharing this information News Organisation Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein back home after four years in prison Domain name: .eg Population: 83 082 869 Internet-users: 17 060 000 Average charge for one hour’s connection at a cybercafé: around 0,20 US$ Average monthly salary: around 49,11 US$ Number of imprisoned netizens : 1More than a mere virtual communications tool, the Egyptian Internet has become a mobilization and dissension platform. Although website blocking remains limited, authorities are striving to regain control over bloggers who are more and more organized, despite all the harassment and arrests.The Internet: Popular and powerfulThe blogosphere has experienced spectacular growth in the last few years, as a result of the IT development program initiated by the regime. Egypt enjoys one of the highest penetration rates in Africa, even though it is trailing far behind certain Middle East countries. Telecom Egypt, the Egyptian telecommunications company, still has a monopoly on land lines. Connections are often shared between several individuals. Telecom Egypt owns the Internet service provider TE Data, which controls more than half of the market.Bloggers and netizens use the Internet’s huge potential to denounce human rights abuses. It was on the Internet that one of the biggest scandals of the decade was exposed: following blogger Wael Abbas’ posting of torture videos filmed in police stations, the implicated police officials were arrested and indicted.Internet: An effective protest engineDemonstrations that cannot take place in the streets because of state of emergency regulations are being transformed into online mobilization campaigns relayed by social networks. Calls for change in the society have been particularly frequent on Facebook. A strike broke out on 6 April 2008 in Mahalla, north of Cairo, site of the country’s largest textile factory. The same day, members of a group on the social networking site Facebook were arrested for having passed on information about the strike. When activists declared April 6 the “Day of Anger” in 2009, the call spread via SMS to thousands of people in just a few days. Young people who had not been politically active until then started denouncing the abuses committed by the regime, and social problems that affected them, such as the decline in purchasing power. Some began blogging to imitate bloggers widely known for their activism, like Wael Abbas. April 6 became a symbolic date – a critical annual meeting date for dissenters. The emergence of these new dissidents is frightening the authorities. The regime feels obliged to retaliate and stop the movement by invoking the need to maintain order.Bloggers: Mobilized but also harassedIn 2008, over 500 of them were arrested for “endangering state security,” mainly by virtue of the State of Emergency Law. The crackdown continued in 2009 and prisoners were often ill-treated. Most have been released since then, yet two bloggers are still behind bars. Since January 2009, an average of one complaint per day is lodged against a journalist or a blogger. Legal proceedings are brought at the initiative of the authorities, but sometimes also that of the army or private companies.Blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, nicknamed “Kareem Amer,” is still behind bars. After being made a scapegoat and arrested in November, he was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the President” and one year for “inciting hatred of Islam“ because of a comment he posted – deemed overly critical of the government – on an Internet forum. He would regularly denounce on his blog the government’s totalitarian abuses and criticize the countries most highly respected religious institutions.Another blogger in prison on unusual grounds is Ahmed Abdel Fattah Mustafa, who was court-martialed on March 1, 2010 – despite the fact that he is a civilian – for the blogs he posted, in early 2009, about human rights violations being committed by the Egyptian army. Detained in solitary confinement, this student is charged with “publishing false news” about the army and “attempting to undermine people’s confidence in the armed forces.”Blogger Tamer Mabrouk was sentenced in May 2009 to pay EGP 45,000 (about USD 8,000) on “defamation” and “insult” charges brought by the Trust Chemical Company, which, in one of his articles, he had accused of polluting.Wael Abbas, considered to be one of the country’s most high-profile bloggers, has been the victim of constant judicial harassment aimed at silencing him – a strategy that is obviously bound to fail. After repeated international protests, in February 2010, he was acquitted on appeal of the six-month prison sentence pronounced against him in November 2009. In a case trumped up by the authorities, he had been found guilty of damaging an Internet cable – damage that had actually been committed by a police officer and his brother, who was the cable user. They both also assaulted the blogger.To demonstrate the kind of influence these bloggers and activists can have, when some twenty of them paid a visit to the city of Nag Hammadi (in Upper Egypt) in January 2010 to pay their condolences to the families of six Coptic Christians killed in a shooting, the police were resolutely waiting for them and sent them back to Cairo on the first train. Authorities were fearful that “they might inflame public opinion and call for demonstrations,” in an atmosphere of religious tension that the regime would attempt to put down, according to Nag Hammadi inhabitants.Netizens under surveillanceSince early 2007, the government has been reinforcing Web surveillance in the name of the fight against terrorism, under the iron fist of a special department of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior. Facebook has been placed under surveillance, rather than blocked, so that activists can be observed or arrested. Authorities are monitoring their people’s emails and telephone calls without any court order, by virtue of the Telecommunications Law, which requires Internet service providers to supply them with the necessary surveillance services and equipment.Since 2008, conditions for using the wireless Internet network (WiFi) have changed. The connection is not only fee-based now, but it also requires an email address to which the password and user name have to be sent. Cell phone companies are required to obtain their customers’ personal data before selling them their services. Anonymity is under siege.Surveillance is also commonplace in cybercafés, which are frequently visited by the population. The authorities often pressure café managers to gain access to the personal data of Internet users that interest them. A limited number of cafés are asking their customers to present their IDs in exchange for a PIN code that will enable them to access the Net.Egypt has not yet implemented a Web-filtering policy. In 2007, an administrative tribunal rejected a judge’s request to block some forty websites, on the grounds of the need to defend freedom of expression. A few “jihadists’” websites are sometimes temporarily blocked. Yet in May 2009, a Cairo court ordered the Egyptian government to block access to pornographic websites deemed incompatible with the country’s religious and social values. The result of the appeal and the authorities’ reaction will determine whether this ruling will lead to an Internet filtering system in Egypt. For now, however, the Minister of Communications and Information Technologies has publicly excluded this option.Egyptian bloggers have prevailed in their latest differences with the authorities: according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one Ministry of Communications project was being planned to limit individuals’ monthly uploads and downloads to 2 GB at a speed of 264 kb/second. Its aim was to better control the dissemination of information – especially videos. On October 8, 2009, netizens called for boycotting the Web in the course of a campaign nicknamed “the Internet users’ revolution.” The Ministry chose to back down rather than have to cope with the general outcry raised by this initiative. It acknowledged that “illegal Internet connections are not the problem, rather it is the growing Internet usage.” Such statements seem to imply that the power struggle between authorities and bloggers is far from over, with a new mobilization expected on April 6.Links : information and decision support centre (English and Arabic) website of the organisation HRInfo, human rights defender in the Arab world (English and Arabic), member of the Reporters Without Borders’ network of partner organisations. blog of Wael Abbas (chiefly Arabic but some articles written in English) the blog of Kareem Amer (Arabic) News February 1, 2021 Find out more News February 6, 2021 Find out more January 22, 2021 Find out more Less press freedom than ever in Egypt, 10 years after revolutioncenter_img RSF_en to go further Detained woman journalist pressured by interrogator, harassed by prison staff Follow the news on Egypt EgyptMiddle East – North Africa News EgyptMiddle East – North Africa March 12, 2010 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Egypt Receive email alertslast_img