The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) has followed thousands of Egyptians’ protests in several governorates since last Friday evening until the early hours of Sunday morning. AFTE condemns the security services’ violent practices against protests in Cairo and several other governorates. During serving legal aid to the protestors before the State Security Prosecution since yesterday, AFTE’s lawyers have monitored unlawful arrests, detentions, and referrals to the investigation.
Since last Friday, many online calls for protesting have been spread. After the businessman contractor, Mohamad Ali, revealed stories on alleged practices of corruption that President Al-Sisi involved in. Through a series of video posts, Ali disclosed information concerning the construction work of presidential palaces which he participated while working with the Armed Forces. Thousands of Egyptians have responded with protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Sues, Al-gharbiah and Damietta.
As expected, mainstream media have ignored covering Friday’s protests. Since the Egyptian authorities, during the last few years, have successfully dominated Media through the acquisition of newspapers and television networks and the establishment of new Media institutions in what so-called “intelligence Media.”
Accordingly, social media networks have become the alternative media that Egyptians could keep them informed about the protests. While dozens were trying to gather and chant around Tahrir Square entrances, last Friday, the mobile cameras kept airing these attempts to the social media followers. And with the continuity of protests in different places for the second day in a row, groups of Egyptian citizens did succeed to regain their right to peaceful protest after years of keeping the streets silent.
Police forces responded to these protests using tear gas, rubber bullets and arresting the participants including journalists. Also, they deployed checkpoints around Tahrir square which stopped pedestrians, searched their mobile phones and arrested some of them because of supportive posts for protests on social media. And more violent police attacks have continued against protesters in Sues governorate until Sunday morning.
AFTE condemns the press statement issued by the State Information Service as it ordered the foreign media that “Social media outlets should not be considered as sources of news or reporting as these sources have an uncontrollable and chaotic nature with the presence of many fake accounts and fabrications”. Which would be a threat to foreign media accredited correspondents in Egypt. Moreover, AFTE has monitored attempts to block ِAl-Hurra TV and BBC websites following their coverage of protests during the past days.
Today, BBC quoted Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Supreme Council for Media, that “the Council has not yet officially notified by the names of the blocked websites, however, he has information confirms the blocking of news websites because of the publication of ‘inaccurate’ news on protests”. Moreover, police forces have arrested five journalists during the dispersal of last Friday’s protests; Omar Hesham, Slim Seif El-Din, IngyAbd-Elwahab, Ehab Mohamad El-Hoseiny, and HazemAbd-Elwahab, according to AFTE’s monitoring. Also, the police arrested another journalist in Sues, Sayed Abdellah, on Sunday, after storming his home because he was posting videos of night protests on his Facebook account.
The security forces also arrested HazemGhoneim, brother of the activist WaelGhoneim, after Wael aired videos criticizing President El Sisi and his ruling policies. Wael, who based in the United States, stated that a contact officer at the Egyptian embassy in Washington had called him to warn him against continuing criticizing President El-Sisi, a day before the arrest of his brother.
AFTE urges the Egyptian authorities to release the detained citizens and journalists who have been arrested during the last two days. Moreover, AFTE reaffirms the Egyptian government’s obligation to guaranteeing Internet Freedom, including unblocking hundreds of websites, especially news and media websites, also stopping the prosecution of Egyptian citizens for expressing their opinions online. And more importantly, the suspension of the Anti-Cybercrime and Protesting Law.
Finally, it worth noting that AFTE provides all needed legal aid services to those who facing detention because of their online posting about the ongoing protests. AFTE receives any requests for legal assistance via [email protected]. Later on, AFTE will release more information about the current prosecutions’ developments.