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What constitutes a cybercrime?
What constitutes a cybercrime?
Egyptian journalist investigated for comments made on a 2-year-old blog post
Over emails and postings, Bloggers and rights activists continue to debate a code of ethics for their websites and readers' comments, after Khaled el-Balshy,
Monday, September 14,2009 09:50
by Nehal Mostafa Al-Masrey Al-Youm

Over emails and postings, Bloggers and rights activists continue to debate a code of ethics for their websites and readers' comments, after Khaled el-Balshy, editor in chief of the currently out of print el-Badeel newspaper, was recalled to the Cyber Crimes Combat Office last week.

Though he hasn't faced any formal charges, el-Balshy's case prompts serious questions as to the rights and responsibilities of Egypt’s thriving online blog scene.

The case stems from an anonymous comment left on an article he wrote for Al Dustour newspaper and posted on his personal blog. The article dealt with what El-Balshy claimed was a sweetheart deal to sell land belonging to the SEID pharmaceutical company for what he said was 3,000 times less than its real value. An anonymous poster left a comment on the blog accusing a private sector businessman of corruption. The businessman filed a libel complaint.

I deleted (the comment because the accusations contained no evidence at all," el-Balshy said. “But if there was a lawsuit against me, I wouldn't delete them because no on has the right to forfeit others' rights to express their freedoms."

El-Balshy said the fact that the case has gone this far sets a dangerous precedent—holding a blogger or online journalist legally responsible for the contents of their comments section.

"Comments are not the blogger's responsibility," he said.

Another curious aspect of the case: the blog post in question was more than two years old. But the anonymous accusation in the comments section was posted in April of this year.

"I do wonder about that large time difference," el-Balshy said.

From now on, he said, "I'll set the privacy policy only for the old postings, as I will not check it regularly, but not for the new ones for I'll check them daily."

El- Balshy expressed concern that his experience will intimidate other bloggers or online journalists. His message to others in the same field: "Maintain your principles but don't leave a chance for others to conspire against you."

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information released a statement last week advising bloggers on how to deal with libelous or slanderous comments

"The blogger should receive an official letter if there's a comment posted upon his blog that include slanders requesting this comment to be removed," said Gamal Eid, head of the ANHRI. “If the blogger doesn’t remove it or reply, then he'll be considered as (complicit with) the person who left the comment."

Eid speaks from personal experience, having had his own run-ins with the government cybercrimes squad.

"We were summoned two weeks ago for the 28,000 comment posted on Humum.net website, which is directly linked with the ANHRI website, among them were comments including libels and slanders."

tags: Bloggers / rights activists / ANHRI
Posted in Human Rights  
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