An Egyptian court has sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in prison for violating public morals.
The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham, and three others came after they posted footage on the TikTok video sharing app.
The appealable verdict included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($ 18,750) for each defendant, the source said.
Haneen Hossam, 20, a student at Cairo University, was accused of encouraging young women to meet and build friendships with men through a video app. The fee is based on the number of followers who see those chats.
Mawada al-Adham, a TikTok and Instagram influencer with at least two million followers, has been accused of posting indecent photos and videos on social media.
The three other women were accused of helping Hossam and Al-Adham manage their social media accounts, according to prosecutors.
Al-Adham’s attorney Ahmed el-Bahkeri upheld the verdicts and said they would appeal the verdict.
Hossam was arrested in April after posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money from their jobs.
In May, authorities arrested Adham, who posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram.
Attorney el-Bahkeri said the young women were separately charged because of the sources of their funds.
Internet penetration has reached more than 40 percent of Egypt’s youth population of more than 100 million.
“The verdict is shocking, even though it was expected. We’ll see what happens in the appeal process, ”said women’s rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed.
“It’s still a dangerous indicator … Regardless of the different views on the content girls are presenting on TikTok, it’s still not a reason for imprisonment.”
Several right-wing activists used social media to condemn the arrests.
A petition was also started on Change.org demanding the release of the influencers with more than 1500 signatures.
“We are a group of women calling on the state authorities to stop targeting women on TikTok. We call on the National Women’s Council to provide legal support to Haneen Hossam, Mawada El-Adham, Menna AbdelAziz, Sherry Hanem, Nora Hesham, Manar Samy, Reenad Emad, Hadeer Hady and Bassant Mohamed, ”the petition says.
In recent years, Egypt has taken action against singers and dancers who consider online content to be too racy or suggestive.
Last month an Egyptian court sentenced belly dancer Sama al-Masry to three years in prison for inciting “debauchery” after posting a TikTok dance video on social media.
In 2018, a singer was arrested for “inciting debauchery” after an online video clip of sensual dance moves went viral.
Last year, a pop singer was sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges, including a video that was deemed provocative. Her sentence was reduced to one year on appeal.
“The allegations of debauchery or violating family values are very loose … and their definition is broad,” Saeed said.
Egypt has enforced strict internet controls in recent years through laws that allow authorities to block websites considered a threat to national security and monitor personal social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers.