Egypt’s parliament has passed a bill targeting popular social media accounts that authorities accuse of publishing “fake news,” the latest move in a five-year-old drive to suppress dissent and silence independent sources of news.
The legislation was adopted late on Monday by the staunchly pro-government chamber, though details of the new bill only emerged on Wednesday. The legislation labels personal social media accounts with more than 5 000 followers as media outlets and empowers authorities to block them on the grounds of publishing “fake news.”
There was no elaboration on what is or is not considered as “fake news.”
The bill still needs to go to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for ratification — a foregone conclusion since such bills are often inspired by his government. The general-turned-president, in power since 2014 , has overseen Egypt’s largest crackdown on dissent. El-Sissi won a second, four-year term in March after running virtually unopposed. In 2013, as defence minister, he led the military’s 2013 ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. Authorities have since jailed thousands, mostly Islamists but also secularists behind a 2011 uprising that toppled Morsi’s predecessor, longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Authorities have over the past year blocked some 500 websites, including those of independent media and rights groups. The authorities have claimed such websites supported “terrorism” or reported “false news.” — AP