Egypt's Administrative Court rejects banning social media, adjourns VOIP lawsuit

Ahram Online , Wednesday 31 Aug 2016

The lawsuit requested a ban of social media, saying Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have been used by foreign agencies to incite protests in Egypt

Logo of the Twitter and Facebook
Logo of the Twitter and Facebook

Cairo Administrative Court rejected Wednesday a lawsuit to ban social media websites in Egypt.

According to the lawyer who filed the suit, foreign intelligence services used social media websites like Twitter and Facebook before 25 January 2011 to incite protests and violence.

He also added that those websites were operating in Egypt without permission. spreading rumours as no censorship has been imposed on them.

In its reasoning, the administrative court rejected the lawsuit stating it was against Article 68 of the Egyptian Constitution, which stipulates that Information, data, statistics and official documents are owned by the people and that disclosure thereof from various sources is a right guaranteed by the state to all citizens.

The court also stated that the lawsuit violated the declaration on the right to development issued by the UN General Assembly in December 1986, where access of information was related directly to the right to development for citizens

"The state should not put obstacles against the flow of information or allow its monopolisation except in the limits of protecting the public order" the court reasoning read, stressing that the way to protect public order is not through blocking networks and telecommunications and spying on people, but rather targeting "perverts and enemies of public freedoms."

This is the not the first lawsuit of its kind in Egypt.

Since January 2011 and the ouster of former president Mubarak, in which social media played a role, several lawyers attempted to block social media networks in a similar way but their lawsuits were rejected.

Court adjourns VOIP lawsuit against NTRA

In a parallel case, however, the administrative court decided to adjourn to 20 November a lawsuit against the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) demanding answers about whether it has blocked VOIP services like Skype, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger on the 3G network.

This is the third time the lawsuit, filed by a local NGO (the Support Centre for Information Technology and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression), has been adjourned.

The court adjourned the lawsuit demanding NTRA present a technical statement to defend itself against the NGO's accusations. It summoned also a telecommunications expert to give his technical opinion in the case.

According to the local NGO, NTRA violated Article No 57 of the current Egyptian Constitution by blocking access to the VOIP services on 3G network.

Article No 57 stipulates that postal, telegraphic and electronic correspondences, telephone calls, and other means of communication are inviolable, and their confidentiality is guaranteed.

In October, news reports spread that NTRA blocked VOIP services on 3G networks in Egypt.

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