On Saturday, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ratified a new controversial law granting authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country, the Associated Press reported.

The legislation, which was approved by the parliament in July 2018, 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.

The new law also allows the country's media regulator to "suspend or block any personal account which publishes or broadcasts fake news or anything [information] inciting violating the law, racism, intolerance, violence, discrimination between citizens, or hatred". 

Furthermore, it also prohibits slander or insult to religions.

Human rights organization Amnesty International has previously criticized the new legislation saying they "give the state near-total control over print, online, and broadcast media".

"These [laws] will increase the Egyptian government's already broad powers to monitor, censor, and block social media and blogs, as well as criminalize content that violates vaguely defined political, social, or religious norms," said Amnesty's Director of Campaigns in North Africa Najia Bounaim.

However, Egyptian authorities have insisted that such measures are needed to help tackle instability and terrorism in the country.

Crackdown on journalists, bloggers, and activists is already at an all-time high

Earlier this year, Egyptian authorities arrested a number of journalists, bloggers, and activists in a continued crackdown on the independent press within the country. Writers - especially journalists - have been at the forefront of the crackdown. 

In 2016, 40 armed members of the National Security Agency attacked journalists at the Press Syndicate, the first time since it was established in 1941. At the time, Amnesty International called it "the most brazen attack on the media" in Egypt in decades. 

In 2015, a CPJ-conducted census found that Egyptian authorities were holding at least 19 journalists behind bars for their work. This is the highest number in the country since the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990, and the third highest of any country in the world.

The 2014 Egyptian Constitution protects "freedom of expression"

Egypt's constitution, drafted in 2014, explicitly guarantees freedom of artistic and literary creation, freedom of thought and opinion, and freedom of the press. Article 67 forbids the jailing of artists and writers for publishing their work.

"Every person shall have the right to express his/her opinion verbally, in writing, through imagery, or by any other means of expression and publication," the constitution clearly states.

However, many have gone against the constitution with the enforcement of other laws, including Article 178 of the penal code, which criminalizes content that violates public morals.