A judge in Egypt has temporarily banned YouTube, due to the website hosting the anti-Islam documentary, Innocence of Muslims, that set off violent riots in North Africa and the Middle East last September. YouTube is to be blocked for 30 days, though, as of Sunday afternoon, a Google spokesperson said the company had yet to be served with an order, says the Guardian.
Activists have decried the ban as yet another attack on free speech in post-Mubarak Egypt. The Guardian cites a January report that found that, during the seven months of the presidency of Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, more journalists had been sued for insulting the president than during the entire 30 years when Mubarak was in power. No wonder that Amr Gharbeia, civil liberties director at the Egyptian Institute for Personal Rights, says that Egyptians could well “lose respect for the rule of law.”
The Guardian notes that, in 2007, an administrative court overruled a judge’s attempt to block 49 human rights websites. Noting that his website was one of the 49 threatened, Gharbeia said that Egyptians would be able to work around the just-called for ban as “the courts are not aware of how the Internet works.” He did, though, add that it is possible that the judge’s aim with the ban is a genuine desire to “protect the people of Egypt from something [he considers] evil.”
Investors note that the ban could hurt Egypt’s start-up community.
It is notable that the YouTube ban has been decreed just around the time of the second anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution — it was two years ago on February 11 that Mubarak was ousted.
On Monday, clashes between protesters contending that Morsi has betrayed the goals of the revolution clashed with riot police in Cairo outside the presidential palace. Protests questioning Morsi as president began on January 24, the eve of the revolution’s anniversary and have, more often than not, become violent, with dozens reported dead and hundreds hurt.
Protesters indeed yelled “the people want to bring down the regime,” echoing one of the emblematic cries of the revolution that, two years ago, many of us followed on social media sites including, of course, YouTube.
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Photo taken January 25 by Gigi Ibrahim/Flickr