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Court reopens Mada Masr blocked website case for arguments

In Mada Masr’s case against several high-ranking state authorities, which challenges the block on Mada Masr’s website in Egypt, the Court of Administrative Justice (CAJ) decided on Sunday to reopen the case for further arguments instead of announcing a verdict.

The CAJ’s second circuit decided on February 11 to schedule a date for issuing a ruling in the case, which was slated for March 25.

Hassan al-Azhary, Mada Masr’s lawyer, stated that the reasons behind the court’s decision have not be clarified as of yet, as the plaintiff and defendant have both presented their arguments in previous court sessions.

“This decision is traditionally made either because the government needs to add more facts to the case, or in cases where the court sees that the case documents submitted are lacking,” Azhary said, adding that the date of the next session will be decided upon in the coming two months.

In a previous court session held in November of last year, Azhary requested that the court add the president of Egypt, the defense minister, deputy head of the General Intelligence Service, the interior minister and head of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council as respondents in the case.

Azhary also submitted copies of Mada Masr Media’s commercial registration documents to the court, alongside a letter from the website host, demonstrating the company’s ownership of the blocked website to confirm its legal position and proving that it had been blocked inside Egypt. 

The lawsuit was filed on June 6 and initially petitioned only the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), with Mada Masr requesting documentation of the official decision to block the website, if indeed one had been made. Mada Masr also requested formal clarification of the administrative and technical justifications for the block, and to oblige internet service providers to remove all technical obstacles preventing users from accessing the website.

Access to Mada Masr and 20 other websites was blocked in Egypt on May 24 of last year. The state-run 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 taken responsibility for the decision, and its legal basis has not been disclosed, despite complaints filed by the Journalists Syndicate on behalf of several of the websites that had been blocked with the Supreme Media Regulatory Council, the telecommunications minister and the NTRA.

According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, access to at least 497 platforms, including news websites, blogs, proxy and VPN service providers has been blocked on Egyptian internet service providers since May 2017.

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