Another Critic Of Egypt's Government Gets Hit With 'Fake News' Charges
from the thanks-trump dept
Fake news is a handy term deployed by authoritarians to criticize speech they don’t like. Since it’s such a malleable term, it’s been co-opted by a handful of foreign governments as the basis for new laws. We don’t have a fake news law here, fortunately, but it’s Trump’s frequent use of the term that has given it worldwide traction.
Egypt’s “fake news” laws comes bundled with lots of other speech-censoring add-ons. Earlier this year, an Egyptian journalist was charged with “spreading false news” and “misuse of a social media account”[!] for exposing state police brutality. The government’s evidence against the journalist included account suspensions by US social media companies quite possibly triggered by takedown requests the government had issued.
Egyptian human rights activist Amal Fathy is the latest victim of the “fake news” law, which was tacked onto a sweeping “cybercrime” bill that gives the Egyptian government more direct control of citizens’ access to internet services.
Here’s how Fathy fell victim to the new cyberlaws:
Last May, Amal Fathy posted a 12-minute video on Facebook in which she described how she had been sexually harassed while visiting her bank.
She also criticised the government for not doing enough to protect women.
She was arrested two days later, and charged with attempting to harm the Egyptian state and possessing indecent material.
Fathy received a two-year suspended sentence and a $560 fine for criticizing her government. Her actions were described by the government as “spreading fake news.” The word “news” apparently also covers opinions, which aligns it with the US President’s deployment of the term.
Fathy won’t be the last person punished for criticizing the Egyptian government. The law is working just the way it was always supposed to, even if it was pitched to residents as something necessary to counter national security threats.
Egypt’s government now has even more power to block internet services and directly oversee any social media accounts with large numbers of followers. Critics of the government aren’t threatening the security of the nation, but the government is willing to overlook the letter of the law to pursue its true, dissent-crushing spirit.