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Court adjourns Mada Masr website blocking case until November 26

Investigations into the lawsuit filed by Mada Masr against the blocking of its website have again been delayed, following an administrative court’s Sunday decision to adjourn the hearing until November 26.

The court postponed the case, first filed against the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) and the Communications Ministry on on June 6, to allow the plaintiff’s lawyers to examine a memo presented by the telecom regulator, said Hassan al-Azhary, a lawyer at the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) who is representing Mada Masr.

According to Azhary, the NTRA memo submitted during Sunday’s session “reiterated its earlier claims that the blocking of access to websites does not fall within its purview.”

The NTRA had submitted a memo during the first hearing in the case denying responsibility for administering a block on access to a number of websites from some Egyptian internet service providers. Both Mada Masr and the Communication Ministry’s lawyers countered this with subsequent memos during a hearing on October 1, contending that the NTRA is solely responsible for the block.

Azhary added that the NTRA representative also repeated earlier statements, first presented in another NTRA memo submitted in October, claiming that Mada Masr Media has not provided any evidence of its ownership of the website in question, and has not sought to license the website at the Supreme Media Regulatory Council.

During the previous hearing Azhary submitted a letter from Mada Masr’s website host, indicating that the website is experiencing problems, as users on Egyptian internet service providers are unable to access the site.

Access to Mada Masr and 20 other websites was first blocked in Egypt on May 24. The state-owned Middle East News Agency quoted “a senior security source” saying that the blocked websites “publish content that supports terrorism and extremism and intentionally propagate lies.”

No authority has claimed responsibility for the decision, and its legal basis has not been disclosed, despite complaints filed by the Journalists Syndicate on behalf of the several of the website that had been blocked with the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, the telecommunications minister and the NTRA.

According to AFTE, as of October 1, access to at least 434 platforms, including news websites, blogs, proxy and VPN service providers have been blocked on Egyptian service providers.

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