The government of Abdulfatah al Sisi in Egypt has increased the monitoring of information shared on the internet using the COVID-19 outbreak as an excuse, which has reached the extreme of jailing and deporting journalists for not using data from government sources.
Like other nations such as China, and increasingly in the West, the regime has increased the already-strong censorship in the media using the coronavirus as the premise for doing so. As soon as the virus reached the nation, cases of arrests and harassment by the authorities towards journalists increased dramatically, according to a report published on afteegypt.org.
The retaliation has affected traditional journalists and independent bloggers and online commentators alike. Anyone who is publishing information that has not been approved by the government is in danger of being arrested.
As always, although the government insists that these are ways to protect the nation from the coronavirus outbreak, the measures taken seem to be doing more harm to the population. The indiscriminate arrest of journalists and civilians has allegedly crowded prisons, where hygiene conditions are already not optimal.
However, there is also no way to fully corroborate the prison conditions, since those journalists who try to investigate the matter are arrested or deported.
Censorship cases are not limited to COVID-19; the Sisi regime has also banned the mention of sensitive issues such as that of Libya. They have not been limited to news pages, but are also monitoring social networks for people or groups that publish unofficial data.
All these actions have caused many to consider that it is a dangerous moment to censor information because people want to know what is happening with the virus in their surroundings.
However, this does not seem to matter to the government, who shortly after the pandemic began, deported a journalist from The Guardian, while giving a warning to another from The New York Times, both without specific reasons.
The family of a well-known Egyptian activist and blogger named Alaa Abd El Fattah, who has been detained since September 2019, was attacked while protesting in front of Tora prison. Sanaa Seif, the activist’s sister, tried to report the events, but she was arrested, accused of spreading false information, and is in an alleged 15-day detention. Other lesser-known cases include countless protesters demanding the release of these journalists, who they themselves then get arrested.
It is important to note that Abdulfatah al Sisi was re-elected president of the nation in 2018 for a final term until 2022, “winning” with 97% of the vote in a contest that is widely known to be a sham.