Website creation companies have informed their customers in Egypt of new restrictions on the establishment and launch of websites, including personal and commercial sites, which caused a major shock to the website creation industry in the country.
The Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) in Egypt stipulated, in the media licencing list, a minimum of EGP 100,000 ($6,256) for the capital of Egyptian and non-Egyptian companies wishing to licence their website, including social media platforms, as well as the payment of other fees starting from EGP 50,000 ($3,128) to obtain a work permit. All companies specialising in website design activity were surprised when the SCMR published through its website forms for registering corporate sites, NGOs and clubs, then issuing the regulation of licences that included all websites, whether media or commercial or even personal.
Activists shared on social media the text of the list, stressing its negative impact on the Egyptian economy. For its part, the Information and Communications Technology Industry Chamber (CIT) of the General Federation of Industries, through the Digital Media working group, announced its intention to address the SCMR to review the media licencing list. Well-informed sources close to the chamber said that the Digital Media group held a meeting last Wednesday to determine the harm to companies operating in the private sector that may end the web design industry in Egypt after the application of these regulations. Those sources expressed their surprise at the abuse of the SCMR, which regulates by law the industry of electronic advertisements and media sites, and has no connection to commercial or personal internet sites.
The Digital Media group bases its vision on the first article of the Press and Media Regulation Law No. 180 of 2018, which clearly excludes sites and electronic accounts, and defines the website targeted by this law as that which provides press, media or advertising content. In another context, many activists pointed out that the list is gaining a political dimension to pursue any opposition under the name of the law. They explained that many media sites have applied to the SCMR for a licence, and the owners of the requests have not been answered with approval or rejection.
They emphasised that the owners of media sites are prosecuted if they oppose the Egyptian regime on the pretext that they did not have a licence to work, and they did not get the approval of the SCMR, although the law gives the SCMR 60 days to respond with approval or rejection, and in the case of refraining from responding, this would amount to approval. Law 175 of 2018 on combating information technology crimes was issued in mid-August 2018, and received human rights criticism as “constituting a real threat and undermining the most important fundamental freedoms by wasting many constitutional texts, in a clear direction towards finishing the freedom to circulate information and digital freedoms.”