Egypt Pushing New Ban on Porn Websites

Nov 8, 2012 7:30 AM PST

CAIRO — Pressured by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis, Egypt’s Prosecutor General has ordered the government to ban porn websites.

Although the country’s administrative courts issued a ban last March under former President Hosni Mubarak's rule, calling porn “venomous and vile,” thousands of porn sites continued to thrive because of the high technical costs to shut them down. According to Ahram Online, the cost of an all-out ban would be close to $16.5 million.

At that time Younis Makhioun, a prime minister of Egypt’s ultra-conservative al-Nour Salafist religious People’s Assembly Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, called for an all out ban on porn.

He said that porn sites have destroyed morality, corrupted the youth and spread obscenity, family troubles, rape and divorce and that a ban would stop Egypt’s youth from becoming “busy with lust.”

Digital rights researcher Ramy Raoof told the Associated Press that under Mubarek Islamist lawyers tried to block porn sites. "The government is not supposed to monitor or be watchdogs over people. It should provide services, regardless of how citizens use that service," he said.

But now, the “Pure Net” campaign launched by the Salfis is being pushed by chief prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud who said porn on the Internet is "inconsistent with the values and traditions of the Egyptian people and the higher interests of the state."

Mahmoud is reportedly under pressure from the new Egyptian government after botching the prosecution of top Mubarak-era officials charged with orchestrating violence during the uprising that deposed the leader.

The latest crackdown has once again raised the issue of free speech in the volatile country since last year’s revolution that’s seen Islamist groups dominating local elections and pushing their agendas on morality.

And some Egyptians fear this could be the first step in censoring other online sites.

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American activist tweeted, "I'm not arguing w anyone about porn but know this: "ban" porn sites today, ban your sites tomorrow. #Egypt".

Raoof said nothing has changed regarding Internet freedom since the revolution and doesn’t believe it has anything to do with Islamists. “It is a continuous effort that has been happening from before. The former regime saw itself as a monitor over society on how it should act, think, write, and speak," he said. "The philosophy has not changed."

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