Five female influencers in Egypt have been sentenced to two years in prison by the Economic Court in Cairo for posting “indecent videos” on the video-sharing app TikTok.
Mowada al-Adham, Haneen Hossam and three unnamed others were jailed on account of violating public morals.
The ruling against the five women, which can be appealed, included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,750) for each defendant, a source said.
Mawada al-Adham, a TikTok and Instagram influencer with about two million followers, was accused of releasing indecent videos and photos on social media.
Haneen Hossam, a 20-year-old University of Cairo student, was charged with spurring on young women to meet men through a video app and build friendships with them. Prosecutors said views of the chats showed she received a fee for acting as the link between the parties.
Law officials say that the three other women were convicted of helping Adham and Hossam manage their social media accounts.
Ahmed el-Bahkeri, al-Adham’s lawyer, confirmed the sentences and said both women would appeal the verdict. He also said that the young women face separate charges over the sources of their funding.
Agence France Presse news agency reports that in April, Hossam was arrested after posting a three-minute clip, in which she told her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money working for her.
Al-Adham was arrested by officials in May for posting satirical videos on both Instagram and TikTok.
The young women’s sentences are the first to be issued by a court. They mark the beginning of a campaign by Egyptian officials to clamp down on social media influencers.
Women who are popular on TikTok in Egypt have been targeted recently and a string of arrests has been made.
The women were accused of inciting “debauchery” and “immorality” through the content they present on the social media platform. But reporters say it is not always known precisely which clips and images officials base their prosecutions on.
Under Egyptian law, charges of “inciting debauchery” can be used to counter several offences. The charge is often established by the public prosecutor’s office as something that is “against Egyptian society’s traditions and morals”.
Online campaigns have been mounted by activists in response to demands for the young women’s release.
Young people and the elderly alike are catching on to the globally TikTok craze. TikTok dance videos have become common as people eagerly record dance or lip-sync clips with the dedicated app.
TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012. It is used for creating short dance, comedy, lip-sync and talent videos.
Its popularity in Egypt has soared in recent months, mostly because of government-imposed restrictions on movement and entertainment to control the spread of COVID-19, reports say.
Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng
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