In the early hours of Friday morning, a number of users reported that the block had been lifted, only to note that it had returned hours later and now included additional websites.
Nora Younis, the editor-in-chief of Al-Manassa, told Mada Masr that a number of readers reached out to the publication to say they were unable to access the Al-Manassa website on several ISPs. Al-Manassa subsequently confirmed it had been blocked.
In response to the government’s action, several websites, including Mada Masr, submitted an official complaint to the prosecutor general at the beginning of June and appointed a unified group of defense lawyers to pursue legal action. Two members of Parliament also submitted official memos to Parliament addressing the block.
Younis told Mada Masr that Al-Manassa will join the legal steps other websites have taken to contest the block.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International condemned the government’s move to block access to websites in Egypt, which includes Daily News Egypt, Al-Mesryoon, Masr Al-Arabiya and Al-Borsa, in addition to Al Jazeera and websites linked to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The latest clampdown on digital media is further evidence of Egypt’s age-old police state tactics in motion. Even in the darkest days of the repressive Mubarak era the authorities didn’t cut off access to all independent news sites,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns director.
The initial list of blocked websites has grown at various points over the past several weeks. On Sunday, access to El Badil, Al-Bedaiah, Medium, Sasapost, the Tehran-based Al-Alam news network, Turk Press, Arab Turkey, Akhbar Turkiya and Akhbar Al-Aalam was blocked. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) confirmed the block using the Open Observatory of Network Interference tool and released a statement asserting that “most of the blocked sites are news websites, which constitutes a clear attack on the media, and contradicts Article 57 of the Constitution.”
VPN services, including TunnelBear, CyberGhost, Hotspot Shield, TigerVPN and ZenVPN were blocked on Monday, along with news website Yanair Gate, and International polling site Avaaz was blocked on Tuesday
After the block was instituted, Supreme Media Regulatory Council head Makram Mohammed Ahmed said that the decision is likely “a judicial order that the council has no authority over.”
Mada Masr has filed a lawsuit against the communications minister and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority at the State Council to challenge the decision and demand information regarding its implementation, which has not be conveyed.