On April 9, 2020, Egyptian authorities blocked Darb, a news website owned by the opposition Socialist Popular Movement Party, according to a report by the website and news reports.
The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, a local rights group, wrote that the April 9 block only affected users accessing Darb on the WE internet service provider. On April 11, another local rights group, Massar, published a report stating that Darb had been blocked on all internet providers throughout the country.
CPJ was able to access the news website from the United States. Four people in Egypt, each using different internet providers, told CPJ they could not access Darb without using virtual private network software. Those people spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Socialist Popular Movement Party President Medhat el-Zahed wrote in a Facebook post that the website will continue reporting despite the block.
Darb launched on March 8, 2020, and has recently covered the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on political prisoners and issues relating to human rights and civil society in Egypt.
On April 13, Darb reported that Member of Parliament Ahmed el-Tantawy requested more details about the block from high ranking officials, but no one responded.
CPJ emailed the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, which oversees the country’s communication and audiovisual sectors, but did not receive any response.
CPJ could not determine which specific body ordered the block. Since 2017, Egyptian authorities have blocked at least 103 news websites and hundreds of VPN and proxy websites, and no government body has claimed responsibility for those blocks, according to CPJ research.
The Socialist Popular Movement Party’s website, which publishes news on issues related to the party, is still accessible in Egypt, according to the four people who spoke to CPJ.
Darb editor-in-chief Khaled el-Balshy previously worked as editor-in-chief of the el-Badil and Kateb news websites, both of which were blocked by authorities, according to news reports.
El-Balshy is also a prominent press freedom activist in Egypt, and was arrested in April 2016 and held for two days for allegedly insulting the Ministry of Interior and the police in his reporting, as CPJ reported at the time.
[Editors’ Note: This article has been changed in its last paragraph to correct the amount of time el-Balshy was detained in 2016.]