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Egypt Blocks HRW Site After Torture Report

FILE - Basma Abdel-Aziz poses at an old bookshop in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 27, 2016. Abdel-Aziz is an author and activist who is one of Egypt's keenest observers of torture's decades-old legacy in the country, a rights violation that Human Rights Watch reports is ongoing.

Egypt blocked the website of Human Rights Watch one day after the organization released a report on systematic torture in the country’s jails.

Reuters attempted to access the website late Thursday but was unsuccessful.

“Egyptian authorities keep insisting that any incidents of torture are isolated crimes by bad officers acting alone, but the Human Rights Watch report proves otherwise,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said Thursday.

The report, “We Do Unreasonable Things Here,” based on the accounts of 19 former detainees and the family of another, claimed Egyptian authorities used arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture.

“Rather than address the torture crisis in Egypt, the authorities have blocked access to a report that documents what many Egyptians and others living there already know.”

Egypt objects to report

Egypt’s foreign ministry lambasted the report Wednesday, saying it defamed the country and ignored progress made on human rights in recent years.

“The report ... is a new episode in a series of deliberate defamation by such organization, whose politicized agenda and biases are well known and reflect the interests of the entities and countries sponsoring it,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.

Hundreds of news sites blocked

Egypt first blocked access to a number of news websites including Al Jazeera and Huffington Post Arabic in May after similar actions by its Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But since, hundreds of other news sites and blogs have been wiped from Egyptian screens with the most recent count according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, a nongovernment organization tracking the affected sites through software that monitors outages, at 424.

Journalists see the campaign against them as a step toward banning all but the most state-aligned media, effectively reversing the private media boom that flourished in the final decade of former president Hosni Mubarak’s rule and which they say helped push him from power in 2011.

The government has offered no comment on the reason behind the blockages.