Egypt arrests Facebook users as revolution anniversary approaches

Egypt arrests Facebook users as revolution anniversary approaches
Egyptian forces have arrested the administrators of 47 Facebook pages that they say are run by the banned Muslim Brotherhood group
2 min read
14 January, 2016
CAIRO - FEBRUARY 04, 2011: Protesters hold a sign referencing the Facebook social network [Getty]
Egyptian security forces have arrested a number of people linked to anti-regime Facebook pages, just 11 days before the fifth anniversary of the revolution which ended Hosni Mubarak's rule. 

Facebook was a crucial tool for protesters who occupied Tahrir Square during the revolution, and the subsequent demonstrations against the military junta that took over. 

Anniversaries of the 2011 revolution have been tense for the Egyptian regime, and security forces have clamped down on any signs of protest.

This week, the regime made preemptive arrests of activists is accused of running social media affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Though it is not clear who or how many people have been arrested, interior ministry spokesman Abu Bakr Abdel Karim confirmed that security forces had detained people "calling for marches on the coming 25 January", Reuters reported.

"The administrators of these pages were arrested on charges of inciting against state institutions and spreading the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood," Karim added late on Wednesday. 

This is an ultimate admission from Cairo that there is a crackdown against activists wanting to commemorate the revolution. 

Under strict anti-terror laws passed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last year, the charges of spreading terrorist messages can carry a sentence of between five and seven years.

The Muslim Brotherhood have been banned by Cairo since a military overthrew Morsi in 2013, Egypt's first democratically elected president. 

Facebook is the most popular social media network in Egypt, and is also used by pro-democracy activists to organise events and protests.

A 2016 report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information highlights Egypt's strict censorship of media critical of the regime.

The Egyptian parliament convened for the first time on Sunday in what was described by some as a "chaotic" first session