Mada Masr and the drama of media censorship in Egypt
Access to Mada Masr’s website via most of Egypt’s internet service providers (ISPs) has been blocked since Wednesday evening, May 24, 2017. The news website is still accessible from abroad, and has launched its alarmed outcry against the increase of media censorship in Egypt.
Founded in 2013, when Egypt experienced a dramatic restriction of the recently acquired media freedom, Mada Masr has rapidly distinguished itself for the quality of its reporting and the constant attention to human rights and freedom of speech, as well as for the variety of its coverage. Mada Masr already contributed to the New Media in the Mediterranean network project, promoted by Babelmed in 2014, and became an active member of the Independent media covering the Arab world network, launched in 2016, which issued the following statement in support of Mada Masr.
Independent Media covering the Arab World
Press release following blocking access to Mada Masr’s website
May 25, 2017
As a network of independent media covering the Arab world, we strongly condemn blocking access to the independent Egyptian news website Mada Masr by the country’s authorities. Mada Masr is still accessible abroad, but not in Egypt. Such action is an act of censorship and infringement on the freedom of expression and information.
Mada Masr, as well as 20 other websites, were blocked by the Egyptian authorities for, according to them, “supporting terrorism and spreading lies”.
Mada Masr, which is an independent media founded in 2013 and a member of our network, has since its foundation produced real, critical and engaged journalism, and has worked tirelessly to question and reevaluate its own role as a media outlet.
As members of this network of independent media, we call for an immediate unblocking of Mada Masr’s website and of the others.
Independent media covering the Arab World
Al-Jumhuriya – Syria
Assafir Arabi – Lebanon
BabelMed – Italy
7iber – Jordan
Inkyfada – Tunisia
Mashallah News – Lebanon
Mada Masr – Egypt
Orient XXI – France
Access to Mada Masr’s website via most of Egypt’s internet service providers (ISPs) has been blocked since Wednesday evening, May 24, 2017.
The country’s official state news agency, MENA, quoted a high-level security source on Wednesday night as saying that access to 21 websites, which had disseminated “content that supports terrorism and extremism and deliberately spreads lies,” had been blocked in Egypt in accord with “relevant legal proceedings.”
Mada Masr has not been officially informed that any party has taken official or legal measures against it.
Several other websites have also been blocked, including two Egyptian publications: Masr al-Arabiya and the website of the print weekly Al-Mesryoon. The list also includes some Qatari or Qatar-funded news outlets that support or are managed by the Muslim Brotherhood, principal among them Al Jazeera and Huffington Post Arabic, in addition to the official website for Palestinian political movement Hamas.
The statement from the high-level security source was circulated to newspapers and wire services from the office of the presidency, Mada Masr has learned. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Interior Ministry officials have told reporters that they had nothing to do with drafting or executing the decision to block the websites.
The move to block access to a range of websites affiliated with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt happened in conjunction with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate’s decision to block many of the same sites. Egyptian authorities added Mada Masr to its list, however.
Mada Masr’s website is still accessible in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In response to Mada Masr’s inquiry into the restriction of access to its website, Supreme Media Regulatory Council Secretary General Ahmed Selim said that the council, formed in April, has yet to take over control of digital media outlets. He directed inquiries to the Communication and Information Technology Ministry.
Mada Masr attempted to contact National Telecom Regulatory Authority head and Communication and Information Technology Minister Yasser al-Qady. His secretary acknowledged receipt of the questions and said a further response would be pending. As of publication, Mada has yet to receive a reply.
Mada Masr also contacted newly elected Journalists Syndicate head Abdel Mohsen Salama, who said he was monitoring the situation closely but was not aware that access to Egyptian websites had been blocked. He asked Mada to draft a memo detailing the circumstances of the incident, which he would then submit to the Supreme Media Regulatory Council.
Faced with an absence of information from official sources, Mada Masr turned to technical experts, who diagnosed an RST injection attack as the reason for the inability to access the website.