Several human rights organizations said in a joint statement to them today, Wednesday: “After the increasing number of people infected with the emerging corona virus, the Egyptian authorities have taken extensive measures that reduce the spread of the virus, including a temporary ban on the movement of citizens for a specified number of hours and the complete and temporary closure For some government departments and reduce the number of workers in other bodies. ”
The statement added, “However, the Egyptian government has continued its practices that restrict the right to freedom of expression, freedom of information, and freedom to use the Internet.”
The statement added, “The increasing number of injuries and deaths resulting from the outbreak of the epidemic poses challenges that require respect for the right of individuals to access information and enable the digital press more than ever before to be able to provide knowledge from its various sources,
In addition to being a right of fundamental rights and freedoms, it is linked to fighting the emerging corona virus, so individuals cannot survive, avoid behaviors harmful to their health, and cooperate with the state and societal initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of the epidemic without enabling and sharing information related to the political, economic and scientific aspects associated with its spread.
The signatories condemned the Egyptian government’s continued restriction of the rights to freedom of expression and the right to Internet freedom.
The signatories affirmed that the commitment of the Egyptian authorities to ensuring free access to information from various sources does not contradict the nature of emergency conditions in Egypt and the world.
The institutions stated that “the Egyptian authorities are still blocking no less than 572 websites in addition to 31 alternative domains that the blocked websites have used instead of the blocked links, which means that the total sites that have been blocked reach 600 domains since May 2017, including digital media , Human rights initiatives and civil society organizations. ”
The signatories affirmed the statement that the continued blocking of sites exacerbates the effects of individuals’ inability to move and communicate freely as a result of partial curfews and the closure of some government agencies and private sector companies.
These measures taken by the authorities to reduce the spread of infection, inherently limit the ability of individuals to access information.
“access to the digital platforms of newspapers and civil society organizations becomes more important than ever, to enable individuals to obtain information and opinions published by these agencies, and to monitor the performance of the authority and its policies while facing this epidemic.”
The signatory organizations also expressed concern about the escalation of security attacks and prosecutions against independent press sites, as the Public Prosecution Office directed the journalist and editor-in-chief of the “Mada Misr” website, accusing them of photographing military installations without a permit in front of Tora Prison.
The security forces had detained Lina Atallah, during a press interview with Dr. “Laila Suef”, the mother of activist “Alaa Abdel Fattah,” about prison conditions and the hunger strike by the activist because of the denial of visits in the recent period.
Signatory institutions are also concerned about the Prosecutor General’s call for expansion of legislative policies related to cyberspace, and the consequent restrictions on freedom of expression or violations of the privacy of users of different applications.
These concerns come in light of the availability of indications on the implementation of the law against information technology crimes that imposes imprisonment and a financial fine for moral crimes that are difficult to know, or ascertain, such as the crime of attacking family principles and values in Egyptian society.
The signed institutions believe that the Internet is the last space for Egyptians to express their opinions in light of the deteriorating political, social and legal conditions.
The signatory institutions demand a comprehensive review of laws that restrict rights and freedoms and the abolition of phrases and terms that threaten individual and public freedoms, whether at the academic, intellectual and creative level, civil and political work, and community participation.
Finally, the signatory institutions call on the Egyptian authorities to stop their policies and practices that restrict basic rights and freedoms, especially those related to Internet freedom and freedom of access to information, and demand the lifting of the blocking of websites and the release of prisoners accused in issues related to freedom of expression, the use of the Internet and social media.