As Egypt continues to heavily crackdown on media freedoms, the country recently banned UK broadcaster BBC under the pretext of "inaccurate coverage" of the protests that took place over the weekend, Al Ahram online reported. Authorities also blocked the websites of U.S.-based Al Hurra, Jordan-based ARIJ, and several other news outlets earlier this week.
Internet monitoring group Netblocks also revealed that two leading Egyptian internet service providers - Raya and Telecom Egypt - put server restrictions on Facebook messenger. Speaking to the BBC, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, the head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulations (SCMR), explained that while the bureau was not informed of the blocks, they could confirm that the online platforms were no longer accessible in Egypt.
In the aftermath of the rare form of public dissent under President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's rule, the country's State Information Service (SIS) called on international media outlets and their accredited correspondents in Cairo to "abide by internationally recognized professional standards in their coverage of Egyptian affairs and news." It also warned against the use of social media as a source when reporting the news.
The riots have been largely triggered by accusations made public by self-exiled Egyptian construction contractor and part-time actor Mohamed Ali. In videos posted online earlier this month, the man claimed that El-Sisi and the country's armed forces are "corrupt hypocrites" who were misusing public funds and driving the country into economic collapse. Local Egyptian media outlets said El-Sisi denied the claims and called them fabricated. However, the president himself did not dismiss the accusations.
"Yes, I have built presidential palaces and will build more. I will continue to do more and more, but not for me. Nothing is in my name. It is in Egypt's name," El-Sisi said.
Not the first time the country bans media outlets
In 2017, Egypt blocked 21 websites, including Huffington Post Arabi and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, after accusing them of "supporting terrorism" and "publishing lies." At the time, Reuters attempted to access five websites named by local Egyptian media, including the Al Jazeera and Mada Masr, and found them all to be inaccessible.
Al Sharq, Masr Al Arabia, Arabic 21, Horria Post, and Klmty were all part of the blocking campaign.
In July 2018, the country passed a controversial law that grants authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country. The legislation gives the Supreme Council for Media Regulations the power to place people with more than 5,000 online followers - on social media or with a personal blog or website - under supervision.
Egypt has seen unprecedented crackdowns on press and activists in recent months
Some analysts tracking the escalating crackdown on freedom of speech across Egypt have raised alarm over the fact that this level of oppression is unprecedented.
Though local authorities have yet to release an official number of people who were arrested for taking part in the most recent protests, the BBC said over 500 people were detained in the past few days. AFP reports 1,000 detainees.
Those held - some of whom are under the age of 18 - are accused of several charges including "participating in an outlawed group, spreading false news via social media and protesting without permission."
When El-Sisi first took over power in 2013, he outlawed all unauthorized demonstrations and has continuously been declaring and renewing "states of emergency." Public gatherings of more than 10 people without government approval have been banned ever since.
Today, hundreds of Egyptian journalists and activists languish in the country's prisons. Sometimes, they are detained for years before even going on trial.
Reporters Without Borders has labelled the country "one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists." The organization listed Egypt as one of the worst countries for freedom of the press in 2019. The nation came in at No.163 on a list covering 180 countries, dropping two spots from its 2017-18 ranking at No.161.
In the past few months, the country has intensified its attack on freedom of speech and political expression.
In 2018, Egyptian authorities arrested a number of journalists, bloggers, and activists in a massive campaign targeting the country's freedom fighters. One of those detained is Wael Abbas, a high-profile Egyptian journalist, campaigner, and blogger-in-chief for the website Misr Digital. That same year, the country also detained three bloggers, including Shadi Abu Zeid, whose satirical videos had gained wide popularity in the country. Abu Zeid was granted a release earlier this year, but the prosecution appealed the decision to free him and won.