Top News: Sources Say Egypt Blocked Facebook Internet Service over Surveillance

Egypt reportedly blocked Facebook’s Free Basics Internet service at the end of last year, after the US company refused to give the Egyptian government the ability to spy on users, two people familiar with the matter have said. The Egyptian government suspended the service on December 30 and said at the time that the mobile carrier Etisalat had only been granted a temporary permit to offer the service for two months. Two sources with direct knowledge of discussions between Facebook and the Egyptian government said Free Basics was blocked because the company would not allow the government to circumvent the service’s security to conduct surveillance. They declined to say exactly what type of access the government had demanded or what practices it wanted Facebook to change. A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment. Etisalat also did not respond to a request for comment. Mohamed Hanafi, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Communication, declined to comment specifically on the allegation about surveillance demands but cited other reasons for Free Basics to be blocked. “The service was offered free of charge to the consumer, and the national telecommunication regulator saw the service as harmful to companies and their competitors,” he said. [Reuters, 4/1/2016]

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Egypt’s abuses, crackdown on critics draw world attention | AP
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Egyptian mothers go online to demand reform of school curriculum | Aswat Masriya


Sisi approves 2016-17 draft budget
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved the 2016-2017 draft budget on Thursday during a ministerial meeting, as well as an economic development plan, and sent both to parliament for passage, state news agency MENA said. The cabinet passed the draft on Wednesday as a first step in the process. During the meeting, Sisi reiterated the necessity of cutting down the budget deficit, rationalizing expenses, and making sure basic goods and medical supplies are available at affordable prices for limited-income citizens. In addition, Sisi reviewed plans to reduce unemployment and increase the gross domestic product to EGP 3.2 trillion in FY 2016-17, Presidential Spokesman Alaa Yusuf said. Egypt’s government approved a draft on Wednesday with a deficit of 9.9 percent and economic growth of 5 to 6 percent and passed it to the president for amendments. [Ahram Online, Reuters, SIS, 3/31/2016]


Three policemen ordered jailed over blackmailing drivers
Three low-ranking policemen were reportedly ordered arrested Wednesday for allegedly bribing and blackmailing drivers in Giza. They will be detained four days pending investigations. The policemen are accused of extorting bribes from drivers in exchange for not issuing traffic violations against them. They were arrested red-handed according to reports. Four other policemen have been detained in the past months over similar charges. In February, an officer at the Suez Traffic Administration was ordered jailed over rigging a car license in exchange of a bribe. In December, four policemen were ordered jailed pending investigations over bribery, after allegedly threatening undeserved traffic tickets to drivers in the Cairo district’s Fifth Settlement. [Cairo Post, 3/31/2016]


Egypt to ban rice exports starting April 4 amid shortages
Egypt will ban rice exports starting on April 4 in an effort to preserve stocks for the local market and to combat rising prices, Trade Minister Tarek Kabil said Thursday. He said the ban aims to provide for the needs of the domestic market. Egypt lifted a previous ban on rice in October due to an expected surplus and imposed an export tariff. That decision is set to expire on April 3. “The ministry is coordinating with all the ministries and concerned entities to tighten and control all customs and borders to prevent rice smuggling in order to take deterrent measures against violators,” Kabil said. “The decision will positively contribute to the stability in rice prices for consumers.” [Reuters, DNE, 3/31/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s one-year, six-month T-bill yields drop at Thursday’s auction | Reuters
  • Egypt’s market closes week slightly up | Ahram Online
  • Four companies to start first phase of Egyptian new capital on Saturday | Ahram Online
  • Balance of payments deficit widens to $3.4 billion in first half of FY15/16 | DNE, Mada Masr
  • Egypt M2 money supply rises 17.5 percent in February | Reuters


Men accused of killing policemen die in police shootout
Two alleged convicts were killed in a shootout with the police Wednesday in Qalyubia, according to a Ministry of Interior statement. The two men were said to have been implicated in killing four policemen in late February in Khanka town of Qalyubia on the outskirts of Cairo. Ahmed G., 19, had been sentenced to life in prison in absentia and to other terms in three cases involving drug dealing, forcibly resisting the police, and owning unlicensed weapons, according to the police statement. Two machine guns and ammunition were found next to their bodies inside the apartment in which they were hiding. [Cairo Post, 3/31/2016]


Cairo says Washington keen to boost Egypt’s ailing economy
Cairo has said Washington is keen to help stabilize Egypt’s battered economy and bolster its development plans, while stressing that there are strong ties between the two countries. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held talks with his US counterpart John Kerry early Thursday on the sidelines of a global two-day nuclear security summit in Washington. “Kerry stressed that Washington is keen to assist Egypt in the economic woes it faces,” Shoukry told reporters in Washington following the talks, as quoted by state news agency MENA. During the bilateral discussion, both leaders discussed possible US efforts to promote investment in the Egyptian market. Shoukry heads Egypt’s delegation that is participating in the two-day Summit along with representatives from over 50 nations. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 4/1/2016]  

Also of Interest

  • Sisi meets Algerian Interior Minister | SIS
  • Industry and Foreign Trade Minister says 45 percent increase in Egyptian exports to Russia in January 2016 | Cairo Post