The situation of Freedom of Expression Report for the second quarter (April – June 2017) presents a general overview of the various developments witnessed by issues on which AFTE works. The report highlights the role of the House of Representatives in adopting extremely hostile laws and attitudes towards freedom of expression, whether concerning draft laws on electronic crimes, the use of social media or by obscuring the details of the draft law regulating press and media. In addition to security interventions in the work of journalists, artists, and the persecutions of social media users, sovereign bodies seek to obtain data of users from private communication companies in an incident that raises concern about the widespread violation of the right to privacy, especially if these efforts lead to forcing companies to transfer customer data to security services through a probably pending legislation on the pretext of protecting national security.
It also appears, in the sections of freedom of creativity and freedom of the press and the media that media entities and bodies formed during the past months focus on the exercise of wide roles of control and create additional restrictions on the media and creative works. The Supreme Council for Media Regulation is launching an open fight in defense of what is called “ethics and traditions”, which puts pressure on satellite channels and an entity such as the media syndicate to impose its own restrictions on media and artists, to keep pace with this new policy adopted by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation. It is noteworthy that the council is trying to draft a law for circulation of information. It is not yet clear whether this draft will reflect the attitude of state institutions, which consider availability of information to constitute a threat to national security or whether it would respond to civil society and journalists’ initiatives defending a law that strengthens and protects the right to access information.
In general, violations continued at the judicial and disciplinary levels against sectors such as university professors, journalists, public television employees, students and users of social media, as documented in AFTE’s reports and the statistics. Judicial and disciplinary investigations are used to control the last space for freedom of expression, the Internet. The accusations directed in those cases refer to views published by users social network sites, indicating various forms of surveillance and monitoring by governmental and security bodies. This hostile attitude towards the internet reflected itself in the phenomenon of blocking press and media sites, which escalated sharply during the second quarter of 2017. Security sources did not deny the state’s connection to blocking these sites, but gave examples of countries such as China and North Korea, which do the same. This is another indication of unusual practices in Egypt to eliminate the last secure space for freedom of expression.