The Egyptian Government and the detention of Internet activists

Many reasons and factors helped the emergence of electronic media in Egypt. For example, suppressing different media outlets, such as newspapers, TV channels and radio-stations, difficult procedures for founding new media bodies, censoring media content prior to publishing, different forms of repression targeting journalists, very narrow margin for freedoms and many other different reasons.

Although its continuous attempts to control offline media in Egypt, the Egyptian government didn’t take into account the rise of electronic media and didn’t predict that these might be used by Egyptian citizens. And for sure, the government wasn’t ready to deal with such tools, until the young activists, specifically bloggers, started addressing all kind of abuses, detentions, repressions and torture cases on their personal blogs and twitter accounts, raising awareness about the Human rights violations by the Egyptian government, creating a wide debate and attracting the attention of international communities.

Hence, the government started to expand its crackdown not only on civil society activists, but also on online activists by targeting bloggers.

Till now, the government didn’t clearly censor or deface any Egyptian blog, but has arrested number of bloggers because their online activism. The following are examples for people detained because of their online activities:

  • Mus'ad Abu Fagr, blogger – 2007.
  • Karim El Beheiry, blogger – 2008.
  • Esraa Abdel Fatah, 6th of April movement – 2008.
  • Ahmed Maher, 6th of April movement – 2008.
  • Mohamed Adel, blogger – 2008.
  • Diaa Gad, blogger – 2009.
  • The Egyptian government is also sophisticating its battle against online activists by detaining Egyptian bloggers at Cairo International Airport like what happened with bloggers Abdel Rahman Ayyash and Magdy Saad who were arrested during six days at Cairo International airport. Sometimes security services confiscate bloggers’ personal devices, like the case with blogger Wael Abbas (June 30, 2009) when security forces confiscated his laptop.

    It should be mentioned that a report issued by the prominent Egyptian NGO Hisham Mubarak Center for Law (HMCL) documented the detention and harassment of 43 internet users throughout 2008.

    It is very obvious that the Egyptian government is hardly trying to control both the online and the offline media.

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