LEADING EGYPT BLOGGER GOES OFFLINE DUE TO HARASSMENT

Digital Content

One of Egypt's most prominent political bloggers has decided to call it a day, citing harassment by security services as his main reason to quit. The Egypt-based blogger, known only as "Sandmonkey" - a derogatory term for people of Arab descent - posted his last entry Saturday.

"One of the chief reasons [for quitting] is the fact that there has been too much heat around me lately," he said.

Sandmonkey, who describes himself as, "extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian," started posting two years ago and has since been one of the main animators of Egypt's vibrant blogosphere.  The blog offered stinging commentary on the Islamization of Egyptian society, as well as virulent criticism of President Hosni Mubarak's 26-year regime.

Sandmonkey regularly reported on the arrests of political activists, police brutality, and videos recently posted on the Internet of alleged vote-rigging in a referendum for constitutional amendments, which critics say curb civil liberties.

"I no longer believe that my anonymity is kept, especially with state security agents lurking around my street and asking questions about me, since that day," he said, referring to anti-referendum protests last month in which he participated and several demonstrators were detained.

Egypt's bloggers came to public attention during the political turbulence surrounding elections in 2005, and have since been targeted by the regime, drawing international condemnation.

In April, security forces detained blogger Abdel Moneim Mahmoud for criticizing the government's human rights record.  In February, an Egyptian court sentenced blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman to four years in prison for insulting religion and defaming the president, a verdict condemned by rights groups as an attack on free speech.

AFP