Egypt blocks social media sites deemed threat to national security

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Egypt’s top media regulator put into effect tighter restrictions that allow the state to block websites and social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers, if they are deemed a threat to national security.

The new regulations allow the Supreme Media Regulatory Council to block websites and accounts for “fake news,” and impose stiff penalties of up to 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,400), all without having to obtain a court order.

Prominent Egyptian journalists have called the measures unconstitutional, saying they grant far-reaching powers to authorities to censor the media, in violation of basic press freedoms.

Chief regulator Makram Mohammed Ahmed refused to comment.

Mohamed Abdel-Hafiz, a board member of the journalists’ union, said the government was threatening journalists with “vaguely defined national security violations, as well as vaguely defined political, social or religious norms”.

The nine-page document gave a broad list of prohibited topics, including “anything inciting violating the law, public morals, racism, intolerance, violence, discrimination between citizens or hatred.”

Media outlets that continue to publish “offending material” will be fined up to five million Egyptian pounds (around $298,000).

The new regulations laid out the same penalty for outlets that publish content without obtaining distribution rights, plus additional compensation.

Titi