Last week, Egypt’s parliament passed three new media laws allowing the presidentially appointed Supreme Council of Media to monitor and “supervise” users with more than 5000 followers on social media platforms.
The new laws were ostensibly passed in order to curb disinformation, or “fake news” to use the Trumpian parlance of the times, by blocking and referring individuals who spread false reports through their social media accounts for prosecution. The new laws also allow for people to be detained pending trial.
But what constitutes “fake news” is not defined, leaving it up to the head of the council, who is hand-picked by the president and placed there to do his bidding, to decide. The new laws essentially allow the government to control personal social media accounts and personal blogs in violation of the constitution.
Critics maintain that this is the only latest move in the drive to silence independent sources of news, suppress dissent and civil society participation, and ensure that only official statements reach the public.