In Egypt: Aggression against media and freedom of opinion continues

At a time, the Egyptian regime is alleging transparency under the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), oppressing the media and blocking websites are continuing. The owner of one of the most prominent economic journals in Egypt has been arrested. 

Blocking websites: A common practice

Daaarb news website, founded by the leftist Socialist Popular Alliance Party one month ago, has been blocked and so joined the long list of illegal blocked websites in Egypt.

The editor in chief of Daaarb is the well-known journalist Khaled al-Balshy. It is noteworthy that Khaled was the editor in chief of two other online newspapers that were blocked – Bedaiah, which was blocked in June 2017, and Katib which was blocked nine hours after it was launched in June 2018.

The Socialist Popular Alliance Party confirmed that despite the blocking, “the website will go on with the same editorial policy as a platform for information exchange, the publication of views and as [a means of] expression of all kinds of democratic factions.”

The party has criticised “the domination of the same old mindset in handling all files as a security file, while the country needs the collaboration of all efforts under the crisis that the country and all the world are sfacing.”

“The lives of millions are at risk because of coronavirus, while some people have time to block a professional website and prevent its voice from reaching the people… the party was keen from the first moment to [follow correct procedures].”

In conjunction with blocking Daaarb, the regime has also blocked Al-Manasah news website. The website stated that there have been several attempts of disruption over five days through overwhelming it with a huge number of visits. It later turned out that these visits were robots. On Thursday April 9 the website was completely blocked.

The journey to block Al-Manasah started three years ago, in June 2017. Since then several domains providing the service were blocked. The website has proceeded with its fight and emphasised “the continuity of providing balanced professional journalism using all the legal and technical means to achieve this.” 

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression counted 547 websites that have been blocked in Egypt including 125 media websites since the beginning the practice started, in May 2017. 

Arresting the owner of two journals 

On Saturday, the State Security Prosecution detained Mostafa Sakr, the owner of Business News, the publisher of Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt newspapers, for 15 days on remand without revealing the accusations directed against him.

Mohamed Saeed Abdul Hafiz, a staff member of the Journalists’ Syndicate council, said that the syndicate was informed informally about the arrest, but they didn’t know what the accusations against him were because a decision was issued so quickly, before a lawyer from the syndicate could attend.

Abdel Hafiz called on the public prosecutor to inform the syndicate about the accusations, and to release Sakr.

The violations against the journalist and publisher Mostafa Sakr began in December 2016, when the Seizure and Management Committee of Muslim Brotherhood Funds seized his property. Late in August 2017 another decision was issued to handover the financial and rental affairs of Business News to a committee affiliated to the state-controlled agency Akhbar el-Yom.

In 2017, El-Borsa and the Daily News Egypt websites were blocked along with several other media sites that have been blocked without a reason. This surprised observers since both websites focus on economic affairs and have no relation to politics.

Furthermore, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has written for the Daily News Egypt advocating his economic view. The website is published in English and has a wide audience among businessmen. If Sakr and his journals are affiliated to the Brotherhood, then we have to ask why al-Sisi was writing an article in the Brotherhood’s journal.