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EGYPT: New warning to cyber dissidents

August 11, 2008 |  6:46 am

Egypt_protests An Egyptian NGO has accused the government of implementing measures of censorship on Internet usage in coffee shops with wireless connections.

Users are required to fill out a form with their names, email addresses and phone numbers before using the Internet in public cafes, said the statement released Saturday by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

"This regulation, which represents a clear invasion of privacy and a form of censorship on internet users, became a reality few months ago," said the statement.

“This severely abusive procedure comes to prove the security policies that aims to impose constraints and censorship on the internet users with assistance of the Internet and telecommunications service companies, the issue that all of those concerned of the freedom of Expression and privacy protection should confront and counter by every and each possible legal way. They must expose it and punish all of the companies that work together with the security,” concluded the statement.

The Egyptian government seems determined to tighten its grip over cyberspace, which has recently become the stronghold of the staunchest critics of President Hosni Mubarak's regime.  Last month, the government arrested a dozen Facebook activists during a peaceful protest in the coastal city of Alexandria. The government also seems adamant about passing legislation that would provide it with the legal backing necessary to chase cyber dissidents. In July, the local press took the curtain off a government-sponsored bill that aims at putting tremendous constraints on the media, namely online outlets.

On his blog “Egyptian Consciousness”, famous human-rights activist Wael Abbas launched a campaign a couple of months ago against the government-imposed restrictions on cybercafés. His posts elicited tens of responses. “Can I say f-- up, I hope I will graduate soon so I can leave this country which humiliates its people,” wrote a respondent.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Cairo protests earlier this year. Credit: AFP