Methodology of Monitoring and Documentation

  • Collecting primary data

During this stage the team collects primary data from its available sources, which include:

  • Information available to AFTE’s lawyers

AFTE works to support and promote freedom of expression in Egypt through a number of mechanisms, including providing direct legal support to victims of freedom of expression in Egypt. In this context, AFTE relies in part on information available in legal cases, on which it works and through communication between the lawyers of the institution and the victims, or access of lawyers to cases, on which the institution does not work or access to information about them.

  • Information available on the internet

The organization collects primary data on violations of freedom of expression through surveying of news sites and social networks, monitoring news or publications by activists and users related to violations. The organization relies on tools provided by the Google search engine and various social networking sites, especially digital spaces that collect relevant categories of the work of the monitoring and documentation unit in the institution.

  • Organization of primary data

The Monitoring and Documentation Unit team organizes the collected primary information so that it is classified according to each of the topics on which the unit operates. This is an initial organizational stage to begin verification of each piece of information.

  • Verification of information

AFTE relies on a set of mechanisms to verify the preliminary data collected, including the following:

Official documents: Although it is often difficult to obtain reliable official documents as a record of violations, the organization’s staff sometimes relies on official data from government agencies published in newspapers, news sites, official government websites, and government accounts on social networks. Through the Legal Aid Team, the Foundation also works on obtaining police records and legal documents related to violations monitored by the Monitoring and Documentation Team.

Victims’ testimonies: AFTE seeks to communicate directly between the staff of the Monitoring and Documentation Unit and the victims from the target groups to document the violations committed against them. The testimonies are obtained either through direct interviews or by phone.

Eyewitnesses: If a victim’s testimony cannot be obtained directly from the victims, the team tries to obtain the testimony from eyewitnesses, victims’ families or their lawyers.

Digital verification tools: The institution relies on some technical tools to verify the images and photographs published on the Internet, especially social networks, to verify their validity, especially verification of images of attacks or images that show decisions or official data issued by a government agency.

Relevant human rights organizations: The monitoring and documentation team of the institution often communicates with other human rights organizations working in the same areas as AFTE to obtain information about violations monitored by the team, particularly with regard to legal cases pending in courts.

Multiple sources: Sometimes documentation by verifying the data available to the staff is made from different press sources, especially with respect to violations against groups such as a denial of coverage for journalists and media professionals.

Monitoring blocked sites: The organization relies on monitoring and verifying blocked websites in Egypt using the ooniprobe software, a free software that acts as a network for detecting surveillance, spyware and interfering with data traffic on the Internet. The tool allows testing to ensure site blocking, as well as a spectrum of other network tests, in addition to ensuring functionality of the websites, and possibility of bypassing the block using programs such as the Tor search engine.

  • Archiving violations

The monitoring and documentation team then archives the violations digitally, after being validated including reliable information, statements, official documents and the methodology that has been followed, in addition to direct testimonies by victims.

  • Definitions

  • Violation: AFTE adopts definitions provided by international conventions concerning freedom of expression, such as article 10 of ICCPR which provides that:
  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
  1. For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
  2. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
    • Security bodies, include Ministry of Interior sector, ministry of Defense, regular forces, as well as assaults by “supportive civilians or unknown individuals” in the presence of regular forces.

  • Guards or Private security: includes any private guard personnel, whether independent or affiliated to companies, and in the case of direct orders issued by the guardians (e.g. a government official) to commit the violation the aggressor will be considered “government officials.”

  • Judicial bodies: include all civil and military judicial institutions.
  • Private Egyptian channels: private channels based in Egypt.
  • Multiple: includes several press or media bodies.
  • Not verified: lack of access to the victim’s institution.
  • Arrest: is the process of restricting the freedom of a journalist and taking him/her to the police section and making a report.
  • Illegal detention: the process of restricting the freedom of a journalist, taking him to a place of detention and releasing him without any records
  • A violation: Any violation that occurred to a person in a particular place and time to be defined by 4 variables: place, time, type and person subject to violaiton. For example, if three journalists are arrested in a particular incident and one of them is beaten and another is assaulted, five violations will be counted in that case (3 cases of arrest for every journalist, a beating case for a journalist, a case in which a journalist is attacked).
  • In the case of collective violation, such as the prevention of coverage, it was considered as a single violation because it was targeting journalists collectively and not a particular journalist, and also because of the problem of determining the number of journalists and their identities, especially that such violations occur almost daily in addition to the statistical problems that will cause an extremely high number of victims.
  • Journalist: any person subjected to a violation for doing his job, provided the instiution has evidence of his journalistic profession, such as membership of Press Syndicate, a work permit or a commission from a press institution, press archive with a press organization or a certificate by the press organization through its media outlets or officials).
  • Press institution: Any press channel that has a website of a publication.

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