Egypt continues to detain citizens for social media posts considered to be “insulting” or “fake news.”
A loose application of Egypt’s version of the ‘war on terror’ means any kind of dissent can land a person in prison, with a complimentary beating, no trial, and no end in sight.
According to a 2020 information report from The Guardian, “Political prisoners in Egypt can be held in pre-trial detention for years on charges, often in what rights groups describe as unhealthy conditions without proper access to medical care.”
High on the list of relevant examples is prominent Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Monir.
The 65-year-old was arrested without due process in 2020 for appearing on Al Jazeera television.
Monir was accused of ‘spreading fake news, joining a terrorist group and misusing social media.’ Monir later died in an isolation ward after contracting COVID-19 in prison.
Similarly, journalist Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian national, who works for Al Jazeera, was only released in 2021, after he was forced to serve a four-year term ‘without formal charges or trial.’
The relationship between Egypt and Al Jazeera Arabic television could not be described as amicable.
In 2019, an Egyptian court ruled in favour of keeping three of the media organisation’s journalists ‘on Egypt’s national terror list.’
Al Jazeera accused Egyptian authorities of conducting a campaign of harassment against Al Jazeera journalists going back as far as 2013 when the military ousted the divisive, Muslim Brotherhood.
Al Jazeera’s website was banned in 2017, on ‘charges of supporting terrorism and spreading false news.’
The blanket ban on the state-funded Qatar news organisation is part of Egypt’s broader veto of the Muslim Brotherhood.
While a connection with Al Jezeera is a common thread, dissent is arbitrary detention’s common denominator.
Caldron Pool followed the plight of Coptic journalist Ramy Kamel, who was arrested in 2019, and imprisoned for two years before his release in late January.
Kamel, an outspoken opponent of the widespread persecution and systemic discrimination of Egyptian Christians, was arrested on trumped-up charges, with Egyptian authorities accusing Kamel of ‘joining a terror group, receiving foreign funding, and broadcasting false information.’
His arrest was also conveniently timed. Kamel’s imprisonment kept him from testifying on minority issues, such as the mistreatment of Egypt’s Coptic Christians to the United Nations.
Egyptian human rights activist, 28-year-old, Sanaa Seif, was sentenced to an 18-month gaol term in March 2021.
Prosecutors accused Seif of ‘broadcasting fake news and rumours’ about government responses to COVID-19, and ‘insulting a police officer on Facebook.’
Seif is the sister of blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. Fattah was also arrested in 2019, along with human rights lawyer, Mohamed Baker.
Amnesty International questioned the accusations, saying both Fattah, and Baker were arrested and imprisoned, ‘on bogus charges relating to their social media posts.’
Journalists, and human rights advocates are not the only targets of “fake news” false arrests.
Video obtained by The Guardian in March this year appeared to show physical injuries from ‘up to 13 detainees,’ suggesting Egyptian authorities in El-Salam had tortured them.
The thirteen were also detained for allegedly ‘belonging to a terrorist group, misusing the internet, spreading false information with the intent to undermine national security, and illegally receiving foreign funds.’
Egypt’s loose application of laws designed to fight terrorism proves how terrifying the arbitrary application of such laws can be.
Fake news false arrests, arbitrary detention, and imprisonment without trial continue to be significant cause for alarm here in the West, given the Leftist penchant for cancelling anyone who criticises, or chooses to remain unaffiliated, with the modern Left’s woke doctrines.
The cancel culture weaponization of anti-terrorism protocols might prove to be an irresistible temptation for Labor, Democrat, or Greens governments, looking to fortify their power by way of force.
This caution is warranted in view of the fact that any form of dissent opposing Western Governments using an axe to treat a headache, was demonised as a destabilising force during COVID-19.