Five people in Egypt were jailed for ‘indecent’ TikTok videos by an Egyptian court. All five were sentenced to 2 years in prison. The group included 2 Egyptian TikTok stars, 22-year-old MawadaEladhm and 20-year-old Haneed Hossam along with three other people.
Hossam, who has about a million followers on TikTok and Instagram was arrested in April, 2020 after she published a video clip. Her message was interpreted by the authorities as a promotion for young women to sell sex online. The charges were related to ‘violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family’. The Egyptian Government claimed the women’s appearance, choice of dress, dance moves, and statements in their TikToks constituted indecent behavior and inciting prostitution. The women’s lawyers deny those claims. 9 women have been arrested since April for the post made on TikTok.
In addition to the jail sentences, each woman also faces a fine of approx 300k Egyptian pounds (almost $19k USD). The local media reports that other defendants in the case were charged for helping the women publish the videos. One individual was charged with allegedly attempting to help one of the women evade arrest for her charges. The charges are allowed under a 2018 cybercrimes law that gives the government authority to jail and fine anyone on social media who it believes uses their content ‘to violate public morals’. An Egyptian court is scheduled to consider an appeal of Hossam's and Eladhm’s sentences in the next hearing on August 17th. Earlier this year, Egyptian belly dancer Sama EL-Masry also faced charges under the law for TikToks she had posted. Government officials claimed her videos ‘incited debauchery’. She was given a 3-year jail sentence, as well as fine. Her lawyers say she is appealing the ruling. Charges against Egyptian women on the grounds of violating ‘family values’ have gained notoriety in recent months. In July, activists started a Nationwide campaign calling for the release of several women being held on similar charges. An anonymous petition as per the reports by Egyptian streets has stated that “We take notice of this systematic and organized crackdown targeting women on TikTok. It starts with men creating content on YouTube picking on women users, who do not align with their moral stance. When these men start calling women out, defaming them and threatening them with imprisonment, they enable a culture of violence that normalizes and justifies punishing names women’s. The public prosecutor follows reports made by those men against women TikTokers and issues an arrest warrant”. As of July 30, TikTok had not publicly responded to any of the charges stemming from videos posted on its platform. Nihad Abu El Komsan, head of Egyptian Centre for Women Rights, said “we have to differentiate between freedom of expression and using minors to generate money. In this way, it is called human trafficking and prostitution banned by Egyptian law”.