More than 100 websites have been blocked in Egypt across the last month, according to a June 22 update from an Egyptian human rights and free speech advocacy group.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) says there were 103 such shutdowns at various times since May 24, when nearly two dozen news and media sites first reported interference.
Most of the blocking that’s happened in the interim continues to target news organizations, the AFTE said. The cumulative total to date is nearly double the number of overall digital rights and media freedom incidents the watchdog group documented in the first quarter of this year. Egypt imposed a three-month state of emergency in April following bombing attacks on Coptic Christian churches.
News organizations including Daily News Egypt, Al Borsa and Mada Masr have used alternative domains as they push back against the blackout. “We publish what authorities don’t want people to read,” said Mada Masr editor Lina Attallah in a recent interview with Amnesty International.
Mada Masr reported Wednesday that a telecommunications ministry source confirms the Egyptian government, not just the ISP providers, is actively blocking the sites, likely from a center in Cairo.
“The blocking of websites violates the Egyptian Constitution,” AFTE said, noting that neither Egypt’s anti-terrorism nor its telecommunication laws justify the censorship. Amnesty, in a review of more than 60 blocked websites – 76 percent of them news outlets – found only one site connected to groups that use or advocate violence.
AFTE said its group has been working with Tor Project and using its Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) software to better understand when, how and why Egyptians are denied access to websites. One of the results, Tor researchers said, is that their own project and OONI software sites have been blocked.