The Global Network Initiative is concerned about the shutdown of communications platforms, and the intimidation of citizens and journalists for using social media during the lead-up to the 5th anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Egypt.

Demands by government officials for the public to stop using social media to express their views or to organize peaceful protests have a profound chilling effect on free expression. In recent weeks the administration of President Sisi has issued statements branding the use of communications platforms a “religious crime”. This has coincided with a systematic campaign of harassment, intimidation, and jailing of journalists, activists and other citizens for disseminating information via social media platforms.

“We urge Government authorities to adhere to international human rights standards on free expression and privacy, including Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said GNI Board Chair Mark Stephens, CBE.  “Authorities must refrain from censoring, suspending or blocking access to email, social media, telecommunications and other communications services.”

“Rather than an anniversary marked by online repression, we call on the Egyptian Government and other governments in the region to mark this anniversary by respecting the rights of their people to access and share information, express their opinions and participate freely in civic life,” said Mr. Stephens.

While information and communications technology companies have an obligation to comply with lawful government requests, they also have a responsibility to respect human rights, as outlined in the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines.