AFTE: Egyptian authorities continue violations against freedom of thought and expression

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The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression has issued its quarterly report, which emphasised the sharp rise of violations of freedom of thought and expression over the second quarter of 2021.

The report titled, “Proactive Suppression,” showed that 11 sentences in five cases were issued against a number of citizens upon practicing their right to think and express themselves freely.

Most of cases were concerned with digital expression via social media, and the most prominent sentence was the one issued by the State Security Court for Emergency, which is an exceptional court, against researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy, a master’s student in CEU in Austria, with a 4-year prison term.

The association regarded the sentence a blunt violation, particularly after the latest amendments of emergency law, which fortified the sentences of the exceptional State Security Court for Emergency, making them final and preventing appeals. According to the report, the sentence confirms the targeting of researchers by the Egyptian authorities. The association demanded the president not ratify the cruel sentence against Santawy, and emphasised the necessity of abolishing the amendment that made the emergency sentences final.

In addition, the report shed light on the sentences issued by the Economic Court and Cairo Criminal Court against five girls, all of them content creators on social media, along with three employees of the Likee application for sharing short videos. The sentence highlighted the guardianship orientation of the state in dealing with its citizens, especially the women.

The association demanded the abolition of sentences against the girls, known as TikTok girls and employees of Likee, and demanded the public prosecution stop monitoring the internet on claims of the protection of ethics and Egyptian family values.

The second quarter of 2021 witnessed the parliamentary approval of amendments of law 10 of 173 regarding non-disciplinary dismissal of public employees. The law and its amendments authorised the president to kick out any employee from the governmental institutions without committing a violation warranting this dismissal. In a similar vein, AFTE recorded violations of security bodies against citizens, who protested against Israeli assaults on Jerusalem and Gaza.

Finally, AFTE’s report shed light on the Supreme Council for Media Regulation’s ignorance of news websites’ applications for authorisation. The association said that the authorisation process was characterised by selection on a political basis to deprive independent platforms of authorisation.