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UN rights experts express concern over blocked websites in Egypt

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[JURIST] Two human rights experts with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] issued a statement [press release] Wednesday detailing their concern over websites, including many news sites, that have been shutdown or blocked by the Egyptian government. According to the report, as many as 130 sites have been blocked, “including well-known sources of information as MadaMasr, RASSD, Al Watan and Huffpost Arabi, as well as the websites of human rights organizations such as Reporters without Borders, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and the Alkarama Foundation [official websites].” Egyptian authorities have responded to the criticism, claiming the limitations are necessary to combat terrorism [Madamasr report]. David Kaye and Fionnuala Ní Aloáin, the authors of the OHCHR report, say the widespread shutdown of sites is an overreaction by Egyptian authorities.

Limiting information as the Egyptian Government has done, without any transparency or identification of the asserted “lies” or “terrorism”, looks more like repression than counter-terrorism. … In the case of the widespread blockings in Egypt, the blockings appear based on overbroad counter-terrorism legislation, and they lack any form of transparency and have extremely limited, if any, judicial control.

The Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] sparked a string of legal proceedings, many of which are still playing out. Last month an Egyptian court sentenced 43 individuals to life [JURIST report] in prison for crimes of vandalism, rioting and attacking Egyptian authorities. In April a Cairo criminal court sentenced [JURIST report] Muslim Brotherhood [BBC backgrounder] leader Wagdy Ghoneim to death, in absentia. In March former President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison after six years in custody after he was acquitted [JURIST reports] in a retrial of charges that he killed protesters during the civil uprising in 2011 that ended his 30-year reign. In January Egyptian activist and youth leader Ahmed Maher, known for his role in the 2011 revolution against the former president, was released [JURIST report] from prison following his arrest in 2013.

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