Egypt cuts TikTok influencer sentence to 3 years

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CAIRO: An Egyptian court has reduced TikTok influencer Haneen Hossam’s 10-year “human trafficking” sentence to three years, a judicial source told AFP on Monday (Apr 18).

While the jail time was reduced, Hossam was also fined 200,000 Egyptian pounds (US$10,800) by the Cairo Criminal Court, said the source.

The targeting of female influencers has rekindled a heated debate in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and social values.

Hossam was first arrested in 2020 and, along with another influencer Mowada al-Adham, was sentenced to two years for “attacking society’s values” in their videos. An appeals court acquitted the pair in January last year but they were later charged with “human trafficking” for ostensibly profiting off girls’ “immodest” social media activity.

Hossam was charged over one video telling her 1.3 million followers on the video sharing app that girls can make money by working with her on social media.

Then aged 19, she was sentenced in absentia and arrested last June.

Adham received a six-year sentence and a 200,000-pound fine. She is still behind bars.

Hossam’s lawyer Hussein al-Baqar confirmed to AFP that the sentence had been reduced. As she has already served 21 months including time under investigation, “she can be released in June or July,” Baqar said, adding the latest sentence could still be appealed.

Her case returned to court under a routine process because she was no longer in absentia.

Targeting women in media is not unusual in Egypt, where several belly dancers and pop singers have been targeted in recent years over online content deemed too racy or suggestive.

Egypt has over the past few years enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers.

Monday’s ruling “means that the justice system is criminalising what influencers globally do every day when they invite others to work with them and monetise TikTok activity,” Mai el-Sadany, Managing Director of the Washington, DC-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, tweeted.

“There are real and serious cases of human trafficking that must be prosecuted – these TikTok cases are not it.”