Berlin-based Deutsche Welle demanded that Egyptian authorities reverse the blocking of its affiliate, the Middle East culture website Qantara. In a statement issued on Thursday, Spokesperson Christoph Jumpelt said that he considered this move part of a campaign against freedom of press.
Member of Parliament Osama Heikal responded by saying that the Egyptian government has been registering and checking all online portals for two months, and that only websites violating the government’s regulations have been barred. Regulations extend to any website covering Egypt, regardless of where they are based, DW cited Heikal as saying.
Funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over 14 years, the Qantara website seeks “to promote dialogue with the Islamic world.”
Website bans in Egypt began at the end of May and have affected news, cultural and rights portals that provide narratives different than those accounted by state sources. Most recently, this included the Reporters Without Borders website. Their Middle East director, Alexandra El Khazen, told Mada Masr that they reached out to the National Telecom Regulatory Authority and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, but were told it was not clear who ordered the ban.
They were asked by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation to submit an official complaint to help determine why their website was banned, said El Khazen.
El Khazen believes that the ban follows their critique of the regime’s ‘draconian policies’ against journalists and freedom of press.
Mada Masr was among the first 21 websites to be blocked on May 24. The state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted a high-level security source as saying that the block was imposed on websites that disseminated “content that supports terrorism and extremism and deliberately spreads lies,” and that “legal procedures are being taken against the sites.”
Mada Masr has not directly been informed of any specific legal charges against it, nor has it been informed of the specific authority behind the block.
So far, access to at least 137 websites have been barred, according to data compiled by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).