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UA 078/21
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Abgeschlossen am 8. September 2021

Women influencers jailed for «indecency»

AI-Index: MDE 12/4443/2021

Egyptian women social media influencers Hanin Hossam and Mawada el-Adham were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms by Cairo’s Criminal Court on 20 June for inciting «indecent» content, human trafficking and other offences. Amnesty International believes that the young women are being punished for the way they dance, talk, dress and attempt to «influence» the public on social media and calls for their immediate release.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Since April 2020, the authorities have intensified their crackdown on social media influencers in an apparent attempt to control cyber space by policing women’s bodies and conduct and by undermining their ability to earn an independent living. Since then, the Egyptian authorities have arrested and prosecuted ten women TikTok influencers for violating the draconian cyber-crimes law, and other overly vague legal provisions related to «decency» and «inciting immorality». Those prosecuted all have large followings on social media, ranging from hundreds of thousands to several million. Nine of the 10 women were sentenced to prison terms ranging between two and six years and heavy fines. The arrests of the ten women came following complaints made mainly by male content creators purportedly outraged by the women's behaviour and investigations by the Morality Directorate of the Ministry of Interior. According to Hanin Hossam's police investigation report, which was reviewed by Amnesty International, the role of the directorate is to «prosecute those using online applications and websites to publish content inciting citizens, especially young people, to act in a way that contravenes with customs and traditions, or spread ideas and acts of immorality and debauchery in society». On 29 April 2020, shortly after Hanin Hossam's arrest, the public prosecution issued a statement «reaffirm[ing] its commitment to continue fighting shameful crimes violating the principles and values of our society», warning again on 2 May that Egypt was protecting the «new cyber border… abused by forces of evil».

The authorities arrested Hanin Hossam on 21 April 2020 and Mawada el-Adham on 14 May 2020 and referred them to trial on charges of «violating family principles and values» and inciting «indecency» and «debauchery». On 27 July 2020, a Misdemeanours Cairo Economic Court convicted and sentenced them to two years in prison and a fine of 300,000 EGP (around 19,000 USD) each. On 12 January 2021, an appeal court acquitted Hanin Hossam for lack of incriminating evidence, and commuted Mawada el-Adham's sentence to a fine. However, the public prosecution indicted them on separate charges including human trafficking and referred them to criminal court. Hanin Hossam was released on bail on 2 February 2021 but re-arrested on 22 June 2021. Mawada el-Adham has been held in pre-trial detention since her arrest. They are both being held in al-Qanater Prison for women.

Following the ruling by the Cairo Criminal Court on 20 June, Hanin Hossam appeared in a video on Instagram expressing her shock over the lengthy sentence and appealing to the president: «What did I do? 10 years! Since I was released (after nine months of pre-trial detention), I did not speak out or complain or say that I was unjustly detained or suffered (…) Why do you want to jail me again?». She also expressed her confusion for being punished for her involvement in promoting the Likee application as it was legal in Egypt.

Three men were convicted and sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 200,000 EGP (around 12,800 USD) each in relation to the same case purportedly for assisting Hanin Hossam and Mawada al-Adham to commit human trafficking. According to police investigations in this case dated 23 April 2020 and examined by Amnesty International, ten suspects were accused of «establishing a criminal group», including four Chinese executives of Bigo Limited company, which owns the Likee application. The company remains legally registered in Egypt, and investigations against its executives were closed. In a meeting with the Chinese ambassador in Cairo on 30 August 2020, the Public Prosecutor confirmed that no legal actions had been taken against the company and its executives «in light of the distinction between the personal responsibility and the company's responsibility». In his turn, the Chinese ambassador expressed his respect for the customs and traditions of the Egyptian society.

Social Media

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Hashtags: #FreeHaninHossam / #FreeMawadaEladham  / #Egypt

#الحرية_لحنين_حسام

#الحرية_لمودة_الأدهم

Suggested Tweet: #Egypt: Social media influencers Hanin Hossam and Mawada el-Adham were sentenced to long prison terms for the way they dress, act, "influence" on social media. Call on @alsisiofficial and @mfaegypt to release them now and stop policing’ women’s conduct online! #FreeHaninHossam  #FreeMawadaEladham  [Link to UA]

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