Egypt has officially banned sexually explicit websites, three years after the country’s administrative court denounced pornographic content as “venomous and vile.”
The country’s Prosecutor General has ordered government ministries to block porn from the web, after ultraconservative Salafis launched a campaign called "Pure Net" to prohibit pornography online, according to an anonymous government official, AP reports.
The move by Prosecutor General Abdel Maguid Mahmoud has caused a split in Egyptian society. Conservatives welcomed the order as the first step towards an Islamic Egypt, while liberals denounced the move as a government crackdown on freedom of expression.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan described the decision as “a first step towards establishing a society based on ethics,” in a statement to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news site.
The Salafist Nour Party also welcomed the decision, adding that the ban would not impact personal and public freedoms. “Egyptian society is conservative by nature and rejects these websites,” Mohamed Nour, the party’s spokesman, asserted.
One politician called the move “a first step towards applying Islamic Law in Egypt,” MP Ali Wanis was quoted by news website ahramonline as saying.
Others in Egypt, especially from liberal circles, were quick to criticize the ban.
“Those who are preoccupied with banning websites (which they will not be able to block for technical reasons) should be more concerned about the drafting of Egypt's new constitution,” Ayman El-Sayad, a liberal journalist and advisor to President Mohamed Morsi, tweeted.
The high costs associated with the blocking of thousands of websites have prevented the three-year-old ban ruling from being fully implemented.
In 2009, under the Hosni Mubarak government, a Cairo court ruled that “freedom of expression and public rights should be restricted by maintaining the fundamentals of religion, morality and patriotism,” condemning graphic websites and ruling to ban them.
A scheme of how the ban would be implemented has not yet been provided to the public.