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Uganda, Zambia, now Egypt! Social media use comes under intense scrutiny

On Sunday, Egypt joined Uganda and Zambia to enact new orders regulating social media usage in their respective countries. This has raised fears about citizens rights to free speech and dissent

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On Sunday, Egypt joined Uganda and Zambia to enact new orders regulating social media usage in their respective countries. This has raised fears about citizens rights to free speech and dissent.

Egypt already wears the tag of “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists”.

The BBC reports that Egypt’s parliament on Sunday passed a controversial law that will allow the state to regulate social media users.

Under the law, a personal social media account, blog or website with more than 5,000 followers could be considered a media outlet and subject to media law.

Critics say the legislation will increase the authorities’ ability to crack down on free speech and dissent.

A number of opposition activists have been arrested in recent months on charges of spreading false news online.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained in Egypt since 2013, when the military overthrew Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, following mass protests against his rule.

The new law – passed by two-thirds of MPs – placed popular accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms under the supervision of Egypt’s media regulator, the Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media.

Read Also: Tanzanian’s President Magufuli will accept no ‘insults’

The council was also given the power to block websites and file criminal complaints against platforms and individuals accused of offences such as “inciting people to violate laws” and “defamation against individuals and religions”.

Laws passed in 2015 make it a crime to publish or promote any news about terrorist incidents that contradicts official statements.

The government has also blocked hundreds of websites since last summer, including those of news outlets, NGOs and human rights groups.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Egypt 161 out of 180 countries worldwide for press freedom, describing it as “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists”.

Politics

ECOWAS folds, lifts economic, travel sanctions on junta-led Niger, others

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Economic sanctions on Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso were lifted with immediate effect by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday.

This came after the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held an unprecedented meeting at the State House in Abuja, where they deliberated for hours on the political, peace, and security situation in the region.

Mali and its bordering junta-run nations, Niger and Burkina Faso, abruptly announced last month that they were abandoning ECOWAS, the largest political and economic union in West Africa, reversing decades of regional integration.

The ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Omar Touray, announced the Authority’s resolutions and stated that it has halted the closing of the air and land border with Niger, creating a no-fly zone for any commercial aircraft.

Additionally, it has halted the unfreezing of all of Niger’s assets at EBID and the freezing of any financial transactions involving the central bank of the ECOWAS states and Niger.

Additionally, it removed the restriction on military junta members’ and their families’ travel. “Based on humanitarian considerations due to lent and the approaching month of Ramadan,” according to Touray, the decision was made.

Sanctions against Mali citizens being elected to ECOWAS positions were also lifted by the authority. Along with the lifting of sanctions against Guinea, all four nations were extended an invitation to future ECOWAS technical consultative meetings.

Additionally, ECOWAS requested that the member states that were withdrawing reevaluate their choice in light of the advantages their citizens had received.

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Senegalese opposition condemns President Sall’s ‘slow’ election date announcement

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The opposition presidential contenders in Senegal have claimed that the government is taking too long to announce a new date for the poll, following a court ruling that declared a 10-month postponement to be illegal.

This occurs just a few days after President Macky Sall pledged to comply with the Constitutional Council’s position that the election be held as soon as feasible following the parliament’s resolution to reschedule the election—which was initially set for February 25—was overruled by the court.

The situation in one of the more stable democracies in coup-hit West Africa led to violent public protests and threats of authoritarian overreach, and Sall came under intense pressure both domestically and internationally to accept the council’s decision.

However, no new date has been announced, which has angered opposition candidates who want the election to happen before Sall’s term expires on April 2.

In a joint statement released late on Tuesday, sixteen out of the nineteen presidential candidates bemoaned the “inexplicable slowness” with which the council’s decision was implemented.

It was their contention that Sall’s tardy return to electoral duty demonstrated his reluctance to initiate a process that would result in a transfer of power. A request for response from the presidency was not answered.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Justice Minister Aïssata Tall Sall said that there was room for discussion over the expiration of Sall’s mandate on April 2.

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