Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Egypt to crack down on ‘fake’ weather reports

COMPLETE CONTROL:An analyst said the proposed law exposes Cairo’s belief that it can regulate any and all information, no matter if it is apolitical and scientific

The Guardian

US President Donald Trump might routinely rail against the “fake news media,” but Egypt is going one better by cracking down on “fake” weather reports.

Egyptian Meteorological Association chairman Ahmed Abdel-Al has said that it is the only government agency authorized to make predictions about the nation’s weather, and is preparing a draft law to ban unauthorized forecasts.

He said during a television interview that the bill seeks to punish anyone “talking about meteorology, or anyone using a weather forecasting device without our consent, or anyone who raises confusion about the weather.”

The association is Egypt’s primary, if not sole, source of domestic information on the nation’s weather patterns.

Egypt’s media operates in a climate of increasing pressure, with frequent accusations of fake news leveled at reporters and outlets, even those reporting in favor of the state.

However, false reports about the weather are rare, except perhaps for the annual repetition of doctored photographs showing snow covering the pyramids of Giza and the nearby Great Sphinx.

Weather reports have occasionally become political, such as a 2015 claim by the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior that flooding in Alexandria was caused not by infrastructural failings, but members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood blocking drains with cement.

“Regardless of whether or not this proposed law affects anything, it reflects the government’s view that it has a right to regulate any and all information, even information that should be a product of apolitical scientific analysis,” Timothy E. Kaldas of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy think tank said.

In March, Egypt’s Public Prosecution Office set up a hotline for citizens to report incidents of fake news in the media. The parliament also approved a new anti-cybercrime law that gives authorities the right to shut down or block any Web sites that “endanger” the economy or national security.

Egypt has blocked at least 497 Web sites since May last year, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

The nation has experienced some unusual and extreme weather in recent weeks, including heavy rainfall and fierce sandstorms.

Officials from the Egyptian Administrative Control Authority were accused of being unprepared for the conditions and were reportedly suspended and referred to public prosecutors.

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