Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Five female Egyptian influencers get 2-year jail sentence for TikTok videos which violated public morals

An Egyptian court has sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail on charges of violating public morals, a judicial source said.

The verdict on Monday against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok.

'The Cairo economic court sentenced Hossam, Adham and three others to two years after they were convicted of violating society values,' the source said.

The ruling - which can be appealed - included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,750) each, the source added.

Hossam, who is a student at Cairo university, was arrested in April after posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money by working with her.

In footage posted on the app Likee, the online star offered women aged over 18 years the chance to work from home and earn around $2,500 to $3,000 for making live videos and talking to strangers.

She added: 'You will be able to form friendships with people in a respectable way.'

Egyptian feminist Ghadeer Ahmed was one of the few high-profile people to defend Hossam and claimed that she had been the target of numerous bullying campaigns by the authorities.

She said: 'This video went viral and some TV hosts and YouTubers started to incite against her, saying she wants to hire young Egyptian women as 'digital sex workers,' which is illegal and goes against the so-called public moralities.'

One social media user said: 'This is the same as prostitution. Instead of engaging in intercourse, they are just showing their bodies.'

Another person commented: 'TikTok, Likee and apps like these should all be banned in Arab countries. I myself don't like them.'

Before her arrest, Hossam released a video defending her post and claiming that she did not call for 'debauchery'.

The influencer added: 'There are famous actors that use TikTok. Does this mean they work in prostitution?'

In May, authorities arrested Mowada Adham who had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram, where she has at least two million followers.

The arrests highlighted a social divide in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and 'social norms'.

Some analysts say the young women were targeted due to their modest roots.

Their arrests 'are part of violence against women because they come from lower classes', according to lawyer Intesar al-Saeed.

Egypt has enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites deemed a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.

Rights groups say the laws solidify government censorship of online media.

Human rights lawyer Tarek al-Awadi said the latest arrests showed how a deeply conservative and religious society was wrestling with the rapid rise of modern communications technology.

'There is a technological revolution happening and legislators need to take into account a constantly changing environment,' Awadi said.

Internet penetration has reached over 40 percent of Egypt's youthful population of more than 100 million.

Online communications were a key instrument in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

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