In Brief

Egypt to ban ‘fake’ weather reports

Move comes amid growing crackdown on dissenting media

Egyptian authorities have announced a crackdown on “fake” weather reports, amid a wider suppression of media critical of the regime.

The Egyptian Meteorological Association is preparing a draft law banning unauthorised forecasts, which will punish anyone “talking about meteorology, or anyone using a weather forecasting device without our consent, or anyone who raises confusion about the weather”, the EMA Chairman, Dr Agmed Abdel-Al said in a television interview.

While false reports about the weather are rare, “weather reports have occasionally become political”, says The Guardian, citing a 2015 claim by Egypt’s interior ministry that flooding in the coastal city of Alexandria was caused not by infrastructural failings, but by members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood blocking drains with cement.

Timothy E. Kaldas, of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy think tank, told the paper: “Regardless of whether or not this proposed law affects anything, it reflects the government’s view that it has a right to regulate any and all information, even information that should be a product of apolitical scientific analysis.”

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s increasingly authoritarian regime has launched a crackdown on what it calls “fake news” in recent years.

In March, a hotline was set up for citizens to report incidents of fake news in the media, while a law passed last year gave authorities the right to shut down or block any websites that threaten the Egyptian economy or national security. At least 497 websites have been blocked over the past 12 months, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

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