CAIRO: Members of the country’s blogging community have said there is a marked increase in the arrests and detainment of online writers expressing their views on religion and society.
Bloggers are being increasingly targeted by state authorities because they provide truthful accounts on events in contrast to state-owned media and press outlets, which often tend to distort the real story, blogger and journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy said.
“In today s Egypt, many journalists and reporters read the blogs before monitoring Egyptian press and media to find out what is happening in the country.
Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, told The Daily Star Egypt, “Internet freedom is part of the greater ideal of freedom of expression, which the government prohibits. There is a face off between bloggers exercising their right to freedom of expression and a government that does not want corruption exposed.
According to Eid, the government has attempted to curb this freedom in numerous ways such as surveillance and monitoring, closing down of websites (such as the Save Egypt Front), and eventually the situation may develop into arrests and court cases being brought against them.
Internet activist Dalia Ziada claims that authorities are particularly focusing their attention on bloggers expressing their views on religion.
The fact that authorities are arresting people who are sharing their views on religious matters on their blogs is a new phenomenon. I attribute it in large part to the growing presence of Islamic conservatism in the country and large number of Muslim Brotherhood representatives in parliament, she says.
On Nov. 7 this year, student blogger Abdel Karim Suliman Amer, also known as Kareem Amer, a student blogger, was reportedly detained by state authorities and put into custody for his secular online writings in which he criticizes Islam.
Rami Siyam, owner of the Ayoub blogspot, was allegedly arrested on Nov. 19.State authorities deny that anyone is being detained for blogging activities. A ministry official refuted claim any bloggers had been arrested.In a phone interview with The Daily Star Egypt, the official, who asked not to be identified in this report, indicated he did not know who Siyam was.Hala Helmy Botros, an Coptic blogger, was forced to close down her blog Aqbat Bela Hodood (Copts Without Borders), in which she blogged about the persecution of the Christian Coptic minority.In addition, she was ordered to stop writing on this subject for other websites, according to a report issued by Reporters Without Borders.Furthermore, Abbas argues that the authorities are using a new strategy of moral assassination to discredit the bloggers in their ongoing crackdown on Internet activists.
Eid doubts the government will be successful in its attempts to curb the blogging phenomenon. “The government will try to control the Internet, but by definition it is difficult to do so, he tells The Daily Star Egypt, “the Internet is a tool against such oppression. The government will fail in its attempts and just end up looking bad in the process.
Blogger Mohammed El-Sharkawy argues that the government does seek to curb freedom but they are generally unsuccessful. The blogging phenomenon has “moved the streets onto the Internet and the Internet onto the streets, movements have expanded thanks to the Internet, such as Kefaya, El-Sharkawy said in an interview with The Daily Star Egypt.
El-Sharkawy also cites how the Internet monitoring branch of the state security offices attempts to rig polls on the Internet to give them a pro-government slant but bloggers are privy to this because the authorities tend to use the same Internet user ID.
The government will not succeed in imposing laws on bloggers similar to the ones imposed on the printed press. They can try all they want; we are sticking to our guns. We believe in what we do and will continue to do so, El-Sharkawy continues.