An Egyptian court has sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail each on charges of violating public morals.
The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they had posted footage on the video-sharing app TikTok. The ruling, which can be appealed, included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds (£14,600) for each defendant.
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. Authorities arrested Adham in May for posting satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram, where she has at least 2 million followers.
The lawyer Ahmed Hamza al-Bahqiry said the young women were facing separate charges over the sources of their funds. The arrests highlight a social divide in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and social norms.
The human rights lawyer Tarek al-Awadi has previously told AFP the influencers’ arrests showed how society was wrestling with the rapid rise of modern communications technology.
Women’s rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed said “the verdict is shocking, though it was expected but we will see what happens on appeal,” “It is still a dangerous indicator … Regardless of the divergent views on the content presented by the girls on TikTok, it still is not a reason for imprisonment.”
Egypt has been cracking down on female singers and dancers over online content it deems too suggestive.
“The charges of spreading debauchery or violating family values are very loose … and its definition is broad,” said Saeed.
In recent years, Egypt has enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites deemed a threat to national security. It also allows the monitoring of personal social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers.