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Egyptian actor and activist jailed for spreading 'false news' on sexual harassment video

An Egyptian actor and activist has been jailed for uploading a Facebook video in which she described sexual harassment she experienced and criticised Egyptian public services.

Amal Fathy uploaded a video on Facebook in which she criticised “poor public services at a local bank, heavy traffic, sexual harassment by a taxi driver and over a general deterioration in living conditions”. She was arrested two days later by Egyptian security forces who arrived at her door and arrested her alongside her husband and young son. The latter were later released. The government have accused her of spreading false news which jeopardises national security and joining a terrorist organisation. In addition to these charges she faces a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (£430).

The organisation she joined – the now banned April 6th youth movement – supported the 2011 protests that deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the current Egyptian president, came to power after a military coup in 2013. Initially he drew great female support as he promised to ensure women’s safety and combat harassment. A 2013 UN report noted that “99% of Egyptian women reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment”. This figure however has been rejected by the president of the national council for women, Maya Morsy, as she asserted “only 9.6% of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed”.

Seventeen UN human rights officials criticised Egypt on Friday for its use of anti-terrorism laws to “detain activists fighting for women’s rights and against graft, torture and extra-judicial killings”. Much of this legislation was passed in July and enabled the state to block social media accounts and penalise journalists.

The Guardian notes a similar case in which Lebanese tourist, Mona el-Mazbouh, recorded a similar video documenting sexual violence she faced. She was arrested at Cairo airport and sentenced to eight years in prison in July, for “spreading false rumours”. This sentence was later “reduced to one year and then suspended, before she was deported to Lebanon in September”.

See more from the Guardian and Reuters.