Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (8 September) on the suspension of independent media and human rights websites in Egypt:
I am profoundly concerned by the fact that online access to more and more websites of independent media outlets and human rights organisations is being blocked in Egypt. One of the latest organisations to suffer this fate is Human Rights Watch. This move deprives the organisations affected of a key communication channel and is obviously designed to silence them. The internet sites have been blocked without any due process. This is a particularly severe form of censorship and a grievous violation of freedom of opinion and media freedom. It is one of a series of repressive measures adopted against the independent media, human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Egypt.
Free and unimpeded access to information for all is a key prerequisite for a functioning state and for the long-term viability of any society. Respect for human rights is a basic prerequisite for social harmony and lasting stability, and also the best defence against radicalisation and extremism.
I call on Egypt to create conditions in which the independent media and human rights representatives can do their work unhindered – work that is important for the country.
Access in Egypt to numerous independent Egyptian and foreign media websites has been blocked since May 2017. Since August 2017, human rights organisations’ websites have also been suspended. Yesterday access to the site of Human Rights Watch was blocked, two days after it published a report criticising torture in Egypt. The sites were all blocked without any legal procedures being followed, and without any official announcement. The organisations affected thus had no opportunity to present a legal defence. According to NGOs, the number of websites to which access has been blocked in this way has now reached 424.