Egyptian author arrested on charges of 'fake news'

Egyptian police arrest author of a book criticizing the government's economic policy.

Elad Benari,

Egyptian flag
Egyptian flag

Egyptian police on Sunday arrested the author of a book about Egypt's economy on charges of publishing “fake news”, Reuters reported, citing local security sources and the author's wife.

Abdul Khalik Farouk's detention came days after local media reported that draft copies of his book, "Is Egypt Really a Poor Country?", which includes criticism of the government's economic policies, were seized by authorities from a publisher.

A spokesman for Egypt's interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. Two security sources said Farouk was arrested on orders of the public prosecutor.

The public prosecutor's office and the book's publisher could not immediately be reached for comment.

Farouk's wife told Reuters that three policemen who took him from their home in a Cairo suburb told her they were detaining him in connection with the book.

Since President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came to power in 2014, Egypt has seen a crackdown on dissent criticized by activists.

Much of that crackdown has been targeted at the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed and designated a terrorist organization in Egypt in December 2013, several months after the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, following mass protests against his rule.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Egyptian authorities have launched a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters. As part of the crackdown, thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been jailed and the group was blacklisted as a terrorist organization.

At the same time, Egypt has also approved a series of measures that rights groups argue are aimed at curbing freedom of expression online.

Last month Sisi ratified a law granting authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country.

The law, approved by parliament in July, provides the state's Supreme Council for Media Regulations with the power to place people with more than 5,000 followers, on social media or with a personal blog or website, under supervision.

In August, the president signed off on another piece of legislation allowing authorities, through a judge, to order the blocking of websites that "constitute a threat" to Egypt's national security or economy.

Those who administer or visit such websites, intentionally or "in error without a valid reason", can now face jail time and fines.

Authorities insist these measures are needed to help tackle instability and terrorism in the country.