Supreme Administrative Court rules to block YouTube in Egypt for a month

YouTube is set to be blocked in Egypt for a month, according to a Saturday verdict issued by the Supreme Administrative Court, which also ruled to block access to all hyperlinks leading to the 2012 film Innocence of Muslims due to its portrayal of Prophet Mohamed, according to lawyer Hassan al-Azhary.

Case 60693/66 dates back to September 2012, when lawyer Mohamed Salem filed a lawsuit before the administrative judiciary against Egypt’s prime minister, minister of communications and the head of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), demanding a block on the video-streaming website YouTube for its broadcasting of a film that Salem deemed insulting to Muslims and the Prophet.  

Within a month of the State Council’s February 2013 ruling in favor of a one-month block on YouTube access inside Egypt, both the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and the NTRA submitted appeals against the verdict. Describing the ruling as “collective punishment,” AFTE argued that the State Council’s decision constituted “a violation of the rights of all internet users in general, and YouTube users in particular” and criticized the verdict as “a deprivation of a tool for self-expression.”  

In March 2013, the State Council accepted the appeals submitted by both AFTE and the NTRA and ruled to suspend the implementation of its February decision, pending the resolution of the judicial dispute.

In its appeal against the initial court order, the NTRA noted the technical difficulties associated with implementing the verdict, especially as the website operates from outside of Egypt, Azhary added.

Currently, there are no laws in place to regulate the blocking of websites in Egypt. Although Article 29 of Egypt’s Anti-Terrorism law (94/2015) does penalize the use of websites “for the purpose of promoting ideas or beliefs calling for the perpetration of terrorist acts,” the provisions set in this law do not apply to this case, Azhary said, noting that the cybercrime bill has also not yet been passed in Parliament.

Azhary also observed the precedent set by the Supreme Administrative Court’s Saturday ruling. “Today’s verdict, which cannot be appealed, normalizes the principle of blocking websites and gives the government the right to block any website, as the decision came from a supreme court.”

“This verdict comes six years after the incident in question occurred and I personally think that, on a technical level, it would be difficult to implement,” Azhary concluded to Mada Masr.