Cairo, May 13, 2009
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said today that the ruling issued by the Administrative Judicial Court on Tuesday, May 12 compelling the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to ban pornographic websites is characterized by its general terms, since it did not specify the particular meaning of pornographic websites, and even worse, the danger of granting the authority to block to officials of the Ministry of Communication, will necessarily result in the expansion of the policy of blocking and control under the context that these web sites are “pornographic or obscene”, which severely threatens the freedom to use the Internet in Egypt.
In spite of the outspoken attitude of the Arabic Network which refuses any sort of restrictions on the freedom to use the Internet in general, the Network is of the opinion that there are some web sites that may pose serious dangers such as “bomb-making web sites, offensive or racist web sites or web sites related to pedophile porn” which must be blocked, provided that there is a clear identification of the reasons behind blocking, and that the decision be issued by a Court and not an official or an administrative entity.
The Arabic Network criticizes the ruling by the Administrative Judiciary Court for the following reasons:
* The ruling did not specify the specific meaning of pornographic web sites to which it refers, specially that there are some medical or historical web sites which may contain certain pictures or topics that are difficult for an official to understand in their medical or moral context.
* The ruling compelled the Ministry of Communication as an administrative entity to block pornographic web sites, which threatens that it would give a free hand to the administration to issue such decisions and expand its authority to block web sites for little or no reason.
* the decision (be it right or wrong) was in favor of a plaintiff who lacks any vested interest whatsoever, thus paving the way to more cases of religious and political Hisbah.
“Egypt has over 12 million Internet users and this figure is expected to increase, with view to its importance and its growing use in various aspects of life, be it economic, political, social or cultural, thus, it has become a necessity for the Egyptian government to take further steps towards establishing special courts to rule in the affairs of electronic publishing and to deal with issues concerning the Internet, through specialized judges capable of deciding whether to block a web site or not,” said the Arabic Network.
The Arabic Network also declares that it would await the report of the State Commissioners, to intervene in this case, and submit a request to make the entity entitled to block web sites or launch it a judicial entity not an administrative one, regardless of the content of the web site, in accordance with the implication of the Constitution and the International Covenants, as well as precedents of the Administrative Judiciary Court to consider any web site as a printed newspaper, and blocking a web site is equal to confiscating a newspaper, which requires such ruling to be issued by the judiciary.