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Egypt blocks host of websites: Cairo-based rights NGO


The Egyptian authorities have recently blocked a number of websites, including some Turkish ones, according to a local rights NGO, APA reports quoting AA.

 

“During the period from May 24 to June 12, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression has monitored the blocking of a number of websites in Egypt,” the Cairo-based association reported on its website on Monday.

 

According to the NGO, no official statements on the reported blockages have been issued by Egyptian telecommunications companies, Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority or Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

 

“Consequently, no government data has been relied upon to confirm or deny the ban, with the exception of some published material in newspapers and news websites,” the NGO added.

 

But on May 24, the website of Egyptian state daily Al-Ahram appeared to confirm the move, citing “a high-level security source” as saying a total of 21 websites had been blocked for “supporting terrorism and extremism” and “publishing lies”.

 

The source listed Al Jazeera Net (associated with Qatar’s Al Jazeera news channel); Al-Sharq Chanel (associated with Istanbul-based Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour); Misr al-Arabiya; Al-Shaab; Arabi 21; the Rassd network (associated with Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood group); and Hamas Online (associated with Palestinian resistance group Hamas) as sites that had been blocked by Egyptian authorities.

 

The same unnamed security source was quoted as saying authorities had used “appropriate legal channels” to have the sites blocked in Egypt.

 

According to a list provided by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, recently blocked websites also included the Mada Masr news site; Al-Mesryoon (associated with Egypt’s banned Al-Wasat party); HuffPost Arabi; and Ikhwan Online (also associated with the Muslim Brotherhood).

 

The list provided by the NGO also includes at least three Turkish websites, namely: Turkey in Arabic, Turk Press and Turkey News.

 

In a further escalation, the Egyptian authorities also appear to have blocked the website of Turkey’s Daily Sabah, the state-run newspaper reported on Monday.

 

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mehmet Celik, a political editor at Daily Sabah’s English-language edition, described the move as “a totally political decision.

 

“It is aimed at silencing opposing views,” he said. “This decision is due to our [i.e., Turkey’s] general politics, which stand against coup administrations and defend democratically-elected governments.”

 

The Egyptian government, Celik added, “has apparently been disturbed by this”.

 

Turkey-Egypt relations have remained tense since mid-2013, when Mohamed Morsi -- Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader who had enjoyed Turkish support -- was ousted in a bloody military coup.

 

- Diplomatic crisis

 

It remains unknown, however, whether the move is related to an ongoing diplomatic crisis currently plaguing inter-Arab relations.

 

It is notable, however, that the sites appear to have been blocked in the period immediately following the eruption of the crisis -- which has since reached epic proportions -- between Qatar, a close ally of Turkey, and several Arab countries.

 

Tensions first surfaced May 23, when the website of Qatar’s official news agency was allegedly targeted by hackers who reportedly published statements falsely attributed to the country’s emir.

 

Some of those comments included praise for Iran, sparking a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia -- long considered Tehran’s main regional rival.

 

The diplomatic crisis climaxed June 5, when five Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen -- cut ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

 

Mauritania followed suit shortly afterward, while Jordan downgraded its diplomatic relations with Doha.

 

Saudi Arabia has also sealed its land border with Qatar, geographically isolating the tiny Gulf state.

 

Qatar, for its part, strenuously denies accusations that it is a supporter of terrorism, calling recent moves to diplomatically isolate it as “unjustified”.

 

Ankara, meanwhile, has repeatedly stressed its support for embattled Qatar, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating last week that Turkey “will not abandon its Qatari brothers”.

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