Reporters Without Borders ‘unblocks’ website in Egypt

Press releases are pictured on April 25, 2018 in Paris during a press conference of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to present the its World Press Freedom Index for 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Reporters Without Borders ‘unblocks’ website in Egypt

  • More than 500 news and NGO sites are blocked in Egypt
  • Around 100 news sites were blocked last year

PARIS: Reporters Without Borders said it had restored its website in Egypt on Friday, exactly one year after it was blocked by the authorities.
“Access to hundreds of websites are blocked in Egypt, placing journalists in a virtual jail,” the press freedom body said on its site.
“To draw attention to this censorship, and to circumvent it, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is making its own website accessible again in Egypt today.”
More than 500 news and NGO sites are blocked in Egypt, according to the Cairo-based Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression.
Around 100 news sites — including Al Jazeera, Huffington Post Arabic and BuzzFeed — were blocked last year, RSF said.
The sites of independent local news organizations have also been blocked.
Human rights groups regularly criticize moves by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government to curtail free speech.
“Online censorship is one side of the oppressive system that the regime wants to extend in Egypt,” said Elodie Vialle, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ journalism and technology desk.
“It entails putting journalists ‘on mute’ in order to make it easier to spread pro-government content.
“The other side is that the technology is used to spy on them, which in some cases is sold by European companies,” added Vialle.
RSF called on “democracies to condemn the Egyptian regime’s closed, censored and monitored Internet model.”
Reporters Without Borders said it was unblocking its site through a website “mirroring” technique, which involves copying content and switching servers.
Egyptian authorities have not acknowledged or denied blocking certain sites.
In July, parliament passed a law reinforcing the state’s control over the Internet, including social media accounts of organizations and individuals with more than 5,000 followers.
Egypt is placed 161 out of 180 countries in RSF’s press freedom rankings.


Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

Updated 16 January 2019
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Iran state TV’s English channel says anchorwoman held in US

  • The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties

TEHRAN: A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television’s English-language service has been arrested after flying into the US, the broadcaster reported Wednesday. US law enforcement agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The reported detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans, comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties, previously used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.
Iran’s state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.
“We will not spare any legal action” to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran’s state IRIB broadcaster.
Press TV said Hashemi, who has worked at the state broadcaster service for 25 years, had been arrested after arriving at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. Jebeli alleged that her son, Reza Hashemi, had been arrested as well.
Jeff Lea, a spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport, didn’t immediately return phone or email messages from The Associated Press. Rebecca Wu, St. Louis’ FBI spokeswoman, directed questions to the press office at FBI headquarters.
A call to FBI headquarters rang unanswered early Wednesday morning. The bureau also did not immediately respond to a written request for comment. Several local jails around Washington that house federal inmates also said they did not have her in custody.
Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding US Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi’s arrest indicates the “apartheid and racist policy” of the Trump administration.
“We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,” Ghasemi said.
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for Internet freedom and has done work for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.