Blocked websites to hold press conference Wednesday, file complaint with prosecutor Thursday

A number of representatives from websites blocked by the Egyptian government last week will file a joint complaint with the prosecutor general on Thursday to demand the blocks are removed.

Representatives of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate have called for a conference on Wednesday titled: “Blocking as the new confiscation and shutting down newspapers contravenes the constitution and the law.”

Members of a number of blocked websites met on Monday this week at the headquarters of Al-Bedaiah news website, with representatives from the Journalists Syndicate board also in attendance. They released a joint statement saying, “A large number of the blocked websites, which are published via Egyptian companies, are subject to Egyptian law, and some of them are online portals for newspapers licensed by the Supreme council for Journalism, which eases litigation against their managers in case of any legal breaches. This did not happen with any of the websites on the blocked list, which was announced from the start through unnamed security sources.”

The block “represents an extreme intervention into the management of these newspapers, and the appropriation of the right to difference and variety, in addition to being a group punishment under non-existent laws for the journalists and employees of these websites.”

Unnamed security sources announced last Wednesday that 21 websites were blocked for publishing content that “supports terrorism and extremism and deliberately spreads lies.” The list included local websites, among them Mada Masr, Misr al-Arabiya, Al-Borsa, Daily News Egypt, Al-Mesryoon and Moheet.

The websites determined to escalate matters if they are not resolved by the end of next week, though petitioning state institutions and other bodies and launching a sit-in inside the syndicate and protesting outside it, the statement added.

Four members of the syndicate board expressed their rejection of all the “invalid and unconstitutional decisions the Egyptian authorities have taken, which resulted in blocking and shutting down of a large number of Egyptian websites.”

The board members — Gamal Abdel Rehim, Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafiz, Amr Badr and Mahmoud Kamel — said they requested an emergency board meeting last Saturday regarding the blocks, but have not yet received a response, in “clear breach of the syndicate’s law.”

Head of the syndicate Abdel Mohsen Salama said in statements to the press that he is coordinating with the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, headed by Makram Mohamed Ahmed, to examine the legal position of the Egyptian news websites that were blocked, and forwarded statements from Misr al-Arabiya, Al-Mesryoon, Mada Masr, Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt to the relevant committees of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council.

The syndicate also sent a letter to the council saying it “absolutely supports the decision to block foreign websites that affect the country’s security and stability,” and requested to be part of any official committees to examine the status of these sites and others.

A committee was formed to examine the statements by blocked websites and, according to the Supreme Media Regulatory Council head, there is the possibility for journalists to join the committee which is expected to convene in the next couple of days.

Mada Masr contacted several internet service providers to ask about the reasons behind its block, but did not receive any clear responses. Ahmed Hafez, head of public relations at Etisalat, told Mada Masr the company does not have any information regarding the block, a response repeated by Pakinam Rashid, head of public relations at Vodafone.

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