Cairo (AFP) – An Egyptian court Monday sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail on charges of violating public morals, a judicial source said.
The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok.
“The Cairo economic court sentenced Hossam, Adham and three others to two years after they were convicted of violating society values,” the source said.
The ruling — which can be appealed — included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,750) each, the source added.
Hossam was arrested in April after posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money by working with her.
In May, authorities arrested Adham who had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram, where she has at least two million followers.
The arrests highlighted a social divide in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and “social norms”.
Some analysts say the young women were targeted due to their modest roots.
Their arrests “are part of violence against women because they come from lower classes”, according to lawyer Intesar al-Saeed.
Egypt has enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites deemed a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.
Rights groups say the laws solidify government censorship of online media.
Human rights lawyer Tarek al-Awadi said the latest arrests showed how a deeply conservative and religious society was wrestling with the rapid rise of modern communications technology.
“There is a technological revolution happening and legislators need to take into account a constantly changing environment,” Awadi said.
Internet penetration has reached over 40 percent of Egypt’s youthful population of more than 100 million.
Online communications were a key instrument in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.