Five TikTok influencers have been arrested in Egypt over a comic sketch posted online.
Various reports mention Mohamad Hosam, Basma Hegazi and Ahmed Tarek, who together have over a million social media followers, among those detained by the National Security Agency.
They are believed to have been targeted after posting a video titled “Visit” online. It is about a woman visiting her fiancé in prison and has been viewed more than seven million times on Facebook alone.
The group is reportedly facing charges of spreading fake news and membership in a terrorist organization, although it is not clear what aspects of the parody clip these alleged offenses refer to.
The charges were brought under Egypt’s draconian anti-terrorism laws, which civic and human rights activists say violate even the most humble critics of the regime, as well as those deemed subversive of public values.
There are plenty of other cases. Authorities arrested and then released three young men last April for singing a parody of a romantic song in a TikTok video highlighting price increases in the North African country.
Price changes were caused by the decision of the Central Bank of Egypt to devalue the national currency against the dollar.
Last year, a Cairo court reduced 20-year-old influencer Khanin Hossam’s 10-year sentence to three on human trafficking charges for posting an Instagram video in which she explained how content could be monetized on the Likee video platform. .
This was interpreted by the authorities as encouraging women to sell sex online.
Many commentators point out that such measures affect women more.
May El-Sadani, prominent human rights lawyer, said about sentencing Hossam at the time: “What does it mean for an Egyptian court to convict a TikTok vlogger on charges of ‘trafficking’?
“This means that the justice system is criminalizing what influencers around the world do every day when they invite others to work with them and monetize TikTok activities.”
She added: “It is deeply disturbing that the Egyptian state is using allegations of human trafficking to control the expression and social and economic mobility of young women.
“There are real and serious cases of human trafficking that should be prosecuted – these TikTok cases are not like that.”
Amnesty International expressed similar concerns in a statement emailed to The New Arab at the time of Hossam’s initial conviction.
The advocacy organization said, “Women TikTok influencers are being punished for the way they dress, act, influence social media and make money online.”
“This is part of the authorities’ efforts to control cyberspace by monitoring the body and behavior of women.”
Contact our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
To learn more about similar stories, check our news page.