Egypt’s Parliamentary Committee of Communications and Information Technology approved recently Article 31 of the draft-law of the cyber-crime bill that stipulates punishing any internet service provider (ISP) which refrains from implementing website blocks issued by courts.
According to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, the article stipulates that that a penalty of no less than one year’s imprisonment and a minimum fine of LE500,000 will be imposed on any ISP refraining from implementing a decision issued by the Criminal Court to block any of sites representing a ‘threat to Egypt’s national security’.
In March, Parliament’s Communication Committee approved of three articles of the cyber-crimes bill in a move which paved the way to the legalization of the state’s blockage of hundreds of websites that the government claims threatens the country’s national security.
Article 7 of the law stipulates that the state body assigned to investigate websites allegedly representing a national security threat has the full authority to directly block the websites in question.
However, the law does not clarify which state body is responsible for the task.
Article 7 added that if there is an urgent need to take measures against websites with content of a ‘threatening’ nature against Egypt’s national security. Authorities can directly notify the National Apparatus for the Organization of Telecommunications to block it.
The law further stipulates that after the assigned authority has taken the decision to block a website, a court can refuse to apply the decision.
Article 8 says that administrators of the blocked website can appeal the decision seven days after it has been implemented.
Since May 2017, about 500 websites, including news and human rights sites, have been blocked to the Egyptian public.
Blocked sites includes independent news website Mada Masr, the privately-owned Daily News Egypt, and Qatari-owned news agencies Al-Jazeera, El-Sharq, Al-Raya and Al-Watan, in addition to the US-based HuffPost Arabic.