If you hear anything “official” about weather in Egypt that isn’t from the Egyptian Meteorological Authority (EMA), then you’re likely hearing a “fake” weather report. This is also because the EMA is out to draft a law to ban forecasts like these that are unauthorized by the weather authority.
A television interview with Ahmed Abdel-Al, EMA chairman, had him reveal that the bill the EMA is currently drafting seeks to punish anyone that is not only “talking about meteorology,” but also anyone using devices to study the weather without EMA consent, and especially those who seek “to raise confusion” when it comes to the weather.
He reiterated that the EMA is the country’s primary domestic source of information when it comes to weather patterns in Egypt.
The crackdown on fake weather reports may stem from recent concerns toward extreme and unusual weather in some parts of Egypt throughout the past few weeks. These include phenomena such as fierce sandstorms and/or heavy rainfall experienced by places such as New Cairo. The latter, in fact, had its infrastructure suffer greatly after heavy rain had their streets turn into somewhat makeshift rivers, with the Egyptian Administrative Control Authority being blamed for lack of preparedness for these conditions.
Perhaps the move for the EMA to “force” itself upon the regulation of weather reports may also be a political one. An example of this is as per a Guardian report where it recalled an instance in 2015 when the Egyptian Interior Ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the flooding of Alexandria, and that the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly blocked the drains with cement.
Timothy Kaldas of the thinktank Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy told the Guardian that the proposed EMA law reflects the view of the government that it has the right to regulate information, even if said information is a product of neutral analysis of scientific data.
Egypt, Egyptian Media, And Fake News Hullaballoo
The pressure towards Egyptian reporting, however, perhaps stems from a wider issue at hand – a fake news one, to be precise. It can be remembered that Egyptian media personnel have been under increased pressure courtesy of fake news accusations towards outlets and reporters, regardless of their stance towards the government. Interestingly, fake news about the weather have been much rarer compared to other news categories.
Despite these concerns, however, the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office did create a hotline for citizens in the country to report fake news in the media. In fact, parliament also pushed through an anti-cybercrime law which gave authorities full power to block or shut down websites that “endangered” both Egyptian national security and the economy.
Through this anti-cybercrime law, 497 websites were already blocked in the country as of May 2017.
The Global Fake News Conundrum
Today’s “fake news problem” appears to be growing sporadically worldwide due to how easy it is becoming to tailor and manipulate information that is not just appearing on a personal feed, but on the feeds of others as well. Manipulative reports are reportedly being the reason why misconceptions on various things such as election propaganda, terrorism, and social issues, among others, are being widespread.
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