Pleading our own cause: Egyptian authorities block Qantara.de
Qantara.de works together with a network of authors to offer information in German, English and Arabic on a range of political, cultural and social issues. Seeking to promote dialogue, the articles published are characterised by openness and mutual respect – it is no accident that the word ″Qantara″, which means bridge in Arabic, was chosen as the outlet′s name. Naturally, while reflecting cultural commonalities and differences, the website does not fight shy of addressing controversial subjects. A database of material published to date provides information on projects relating to dialogue with the Islamic world.
Prominent human rights activist and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Gamal Eid, gave his reaction to the blocking of Qantara.de: "The Egyptian authorities are becoming increasingly hysterical in their handling of critical media. The pro-dialogue website Qantara.de mainly publishes articles on social and cultural developments. Its raison d'etre is to promote dialogue between different cultures. It plays a major role in ensuring that people in Egypt have access to reliable information that reflects differing opinions across a wide range of topics."
A phone call by the Deutsche Welle to Osama Heikal, chair of the Egyptian Parliament's Media Committee, revealed that for the past two months the Egyptian government has been registering and verifying all Internet websites accessed in Egypt. Since then numerous websites have been blocked for contravening Egyptian regulations. These may also include foreign news and discussion platforms that report on matters relating to Egypt.
In response, Deutsche Welle press spokesman Christoph Jumpelt declared that the measure was "apparently part of an advanced campaign to stifle press freedom and freedom of expression." He demanded that the Egyptian authorities immediately unblock Qantara.de in all three languages.
The Deutsche Welle was also targeted by the Egyptian authorities back in 2015. At the time, the regime put pressure on TV broadcaster ONTV, forcing the channel to halt screening of "Women at a Turning Point", a programme openly critical of Egyptian society presented by the Egyptian journalist Reem Maged.
The Egyptian government is exerting massive pressure on its own domestic media. Broadcasting companies that were long-standing partners of the Deutsche Welle have gradually had to cease their co-operation. In the end, satirist Bassem Youssef′s weekly show could only be watched on the DW′s Arabic channel.
Since the beginning of 2017, media under state control have been conducting a targeted campaign against the Deutsche Welle. Newspaper articles and TV shows have made outrageous allegations against the German overseas broadcaster, defaming several of its employees personally.
Since May 2017, Egypt has blocked over 120 websites critical of the Sisi regime.
Qantara.de is sponsored by the Deutsche Welle, the Goethe Institut, the Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung (Federal Centre for Political Education) and the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations).
© Deutsche Welle 2017