Egypt bans Medium as media crackdown widens

Dozens of websites, including opposition publications, banned since May 24 in ‘clear attack on media’, watchdog says.

Blocked website of dailynews website
Egypt has banned at least 62 news websites since May 24 [Al Jazeera]

Egypt has banned at least 62 websites since it began a crackdown on online media more than two weeks ago, a local rights group has said.

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), which has been tracking affected sites since May 24, described the latest move as a “clear attack on the media”.

“The blocking of websites violates the Egyptian Constitution,” the watchdog said in a statement on Monday, adding that the banned websites included licensed local news outlets.

Inside Story – How far will Egypt go in attacking media freedoms?

The group also accused the government of failing to disclose any judicial or administrative decision to block the 62 sites.

According to AFTE’s latest update, the websites banned included Daily Sabah and other Turkey-based sites, as well as Medium, the online publishing platform.

On May 24, Egypt blocked access to 21 websites, including the websites of Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post’s Arabic website and prominent local independent news site Mada Masr.

At the time, anonymous security sources told local media that all websites blocked contain material that “support terrorism and extremism as well as publish lies”.

The decision to ban the 21 websites came ahead of a decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Egypt to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar and install an air, land and a sea blockade.

The list was later expanded to include more independent and opposition news websites, including the opposition El-Badil. 

Mada Masr, which describes itself as progressive and has no affiliation to Qatar said the website is publishing articles on Facebook for now. It remained accessible outside Egypt or via proxy.

Lina Atallah, the editor of Mada Masr, told the Reuters news agency: “If they did something more grave like arresting team members or me it would make big noise, whereas blocking the website is the best way to paralyse us without paying a high price for it.” 

Index on Censorship, a publication which defends freedom of expression, condemned the ban and called on Egypt to uphold its commitment to freedom of the press.

“Independent media must not pay the price of current political disputes between countries in the region,” it said on May 31.

READ MORE: Egypt’s Emergency Law Explained

Egypt declared a state of emergency for three months in April, following a twin attack on churches that killed almost 50 people.

Emergency law grants the president special powers, which include: censoring and confiscating publications; monitoring and intercepting all forms of communication; closing any facility; and imposing restrictions on the freedom of movement for any citizen.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies