November 26, 2010 / 2:12 PM / 7 years ago

Egypt Facebook pages vanish before vote: members

CAIRO (Reuters) - Two Egyptian opposition pages on the social network Facebook have been deleted from the Internet ahead of Egypt’s parliamentary election on Sunday, web activists who run the pages said on Friday.

<p>People walk past electoral banners for parliamentary candidate Hassan al-Tonsi of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in Cairo November 26, 2010. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih</p>

The activists said they suspected the Egyptian government had a role in the pages’ disappearance but offered no direct evidence. Egyptian interior and information ministry officials were unavailable for comment on Friday, a holiday in Egypt.

Facebook officials in the United States were also unavailable for comment during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The web is one of the few public platforms for dissident voices in a country where an emergency law in place since 1981 makes political activism a challenge by hampering efforts to establish a popular, united opposition movement.

“It is strange that the two biggest Facebook pages in Egypt and the Arab world are all of a sudden deleted,” one activist, who one ran one of the pages but did not want to be named, told Reuters.

One page, called “We are all Khaled Said” and with 330,000 registered users, reappeared 15 hours later after Egyptians living abroad pressed Facebook’s administrators to reinstate it, the page’s creators said.

But the second, called “Mohamed ElBaradei” after the former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief, an Egyptian native who led a now-fizzled constitutional reform campaign, has not resurfaced. That page boasted 298,000 users.

Khaled Said was a web activist who human rights groups say was killed as a result of police brutality but state authorities say died by choking on drugs. It is Egypt’s largest such page.

Facebook campaigns played a key role in galvanising protests in 2008 against rising prices and low wages that led to clashes with police in the city of Mahalla el-Kubra.

Sunday’s parliamentary vote is widely expected to produce a routine victory of President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, following a state-run crackdown on media in recent weeks.

The government has shut 12 television stations and forced a number of government critics off the air in recent weeks, saying the channels had aired content that violated their permits.

Its founders told Reuters the Khaled Said page had called for a day of anger on Friday to commemorate the death of another Egyptian, Ahmed Shabaan, 19, whose body was found in a canal in Alexandria last week.

“Facebook decided to close the page after the arrival of a large number of complaints from sources who want to silence our voice,” one of its founders said. The activist forwarded to Reuters an email he had received from Facebook that said:

“After reviewing your situation, we have reinstated the page, and you should now be able to see it online.”

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