On Monday, the leftist website, BelAhmar, was officially blocked for all internet service providers in Egypt. This added to the total number of blocked websites in Egypt raising them to 127. This was according to the information collected by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression or AFTE.
The first statement released by the website was an apologetic post on their Facebook page for “a technical glitch” but when following up with its technical team, it was clarified that the website had been blocked. This was said by Mostafa Bassiouny, the website’s Managing Director.
Sixty days have passed since the beginning of the blockade and none of the 127 websites have been properly notified with the block. Internet service providers have refused to give any comments on the matter. On the other hand, the Journalists’ Syndicate stated they are currently negotiating with the relevant government entities over the issue and try to reach a solution.
The AFTE called on the government in Egypt to unblock the websites and provide a clear legitimate justification for these bans. This was in their report titled “A decision from an unknown source on the blocking of websites in Egypt”.
Internet users in Egypt have been denied access to websites that are even licensed to work in Egypt. This has been ongoing since May 24. This includes news websites like Mada Masr, Daily News Egypt, AlJazeera, El-Sharq, Al-Raya, El-Watan, and HuffPost Arabic. This was without any announcement or clarification from the telecommunication entities regarding the reason for this blockage.
In a statement for Amnesty International that condemned the blocking of the news websites, it criticized the justification used, “protecting national security,” and claimed that it is just an excuse to repress media freedoms.
Mada Masr, one of the websites which were blocked in May already had filed a lawsuit, at the State Council against the Telecommunications Minister and the head of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, alongside the AFTE.
On the other hand, Hamdy ElKonayessi, the Head of the Media Personnel Syndicate showed his support to the blocking of the websites when he told the local media that the syndicate backs it and supports the state’s decision.
He further explained, “All countries take necessary measures to protect national security when they feel that there are threats posed by media. It’s not a new thing, or a restriction of freedoms.”
The most speculating reason to appear in the media is that these websites “support terrorism”, however in reality, it appears that any website that shows any opposition or criticism to the governing bodies eventually becomes blocked with the same justification.