Egypt clamps down on ‘fake news’ with heavy fines, strict regulations

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Egypt is implementing stricter guidelines meant to curb dissent and limit information the government deems a possible threat to national security.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the country’s Supreme Media Regulatory Council can now block websites and some social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers for “fake news” and can levy harsh fines up to up to 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,400) without having to get a court order.

{mosads}Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been cracking down on journalists and the media in recent years. Critics have called the measures unconstitutional, saying the move is an expansion of efforts to censor the media and violates basic press freedoms.

The regulations span nine pages and contain a list of banned topics, including “anything inciting violating the law, public morals, racism, intolerance, violence, discrimination between citizens or hatred.” 

News outlets that do not adhere to the regulations could be fined up to $298,000.

Mohamed Abdel-Hafiz, a board member of the journalists’ union in Egypt, told the AP that the Egyptian government is threatening journalists with “vaguely defined national security violations, as well as vaguely defined political, social or religious norms.”

Egypt’s move comes at the same time Russia passed several laws that would criminalize the spreading of “fake news” or “blatant disrespect” for the country.

Russia is also implementing heavy fines for those deemed to be offenders.

Supporters of the press say that such laws against “fake news” are used by governments to crack down on dissent.

President Trump has often lashed out at news outlets as “fake news” over what he has dubbed unfair or biased reporting against him.

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