Egypt: Internet Censorship and Attacks on Journalists Amid Major Street Protests

Internet

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations last week and today in various Egyptian cities. The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday's big protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies last week denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service Bambuser.com were both blocked. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter.

Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike.

Slow Internet connections were reported, especially during attempts to access the online newspapers Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Access to Al-Badil and Al-Dustour was subsequently blocked altogether while Al-Masry Al-Youm experienced major problems that prevented it from operating.

Egypt is on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet, above all for harassing and arresting bloggers, but it has not as yet set up Internet filtering systems as Tunisia and Iran have done. Many Egyptians posted messages on social networks in the past 24 hours voicing exasperation with the unusual level of censorship and began using proxies and other censorship circumvention tools to access blocked sites see here: