Court reduces TikTok influencer Haneen Hossam’s 10-year ‘human trafficking’ sentence to three years.
An Egyptian court has reduced the 10-year “human trafficking” sentence of TikTok influencer Haneen Hossam to three years, a judicial source has said.
The source told AFP news agency on Monday that despite Hossam’s prison sentence being reduced, she was also fined 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($10,740) by the Criminal Court in Cairo.
The targeting of influential women has reignited a heated debate in Egypt over what constitutes individual freedoms and social values.
Hossam was first arrested in 2020 and, along with another influencer named Mawada al-Adham, was sentenced to two years for “undermining societal values” in online videos. She was arrested after posting a video on Instagram explaining how women could earn up to $3,000 by posting videos using the video-creation platform Likee, which authorities interpreted as promoting the women selling sex online.
An appeals court acquitted the couple in January last year, but they were later charged with ‘human trafficking’ – a charge Hossam is said to have faced for telling his 1.3 million followers that girls can earn money by working with her on social media.
Then aged 19, she was convicted in absentia and arrested last June.
Adham received a six-year sentence and a £200,000 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 the time under investigation, “she can be released in June or July,” Baqar said, adding that the latest sentence could still be appealed.
Her case returned to court in routine proceedings because she was no longer absent.
Strict internet controls
The targeting of women in the media is not unusual in Egypt, where several belly dancers and pop singers have been targeted in recent years for online content deemed too racy or suggestive.
Over the past few years, Egypt has imposed strict controls on the internet through laws allowing authorities to block websites deemed a threat to national security and monitor personal social media accounts with more than 5 000 subscribers.
Monday’s decision “means that the justice system criminalizes what influencers do every day around the world when they invite others to work with them and monetize TikTok’s business,” Mai el-Sadany, chief executive. of the Washington, DC-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, wrote in a Tweet.
“There are real, serious cases of human trafficking that need to be prosecuted – these TikTok cases are not.”
Last year, rights group Amnesty International sentenced condemnation of Egyptian TikTok influencers.
“TikTok influencers are punished for the way they dress, act, influence social media and make money online,” said Amnesty International researcher Hussein Baoumi. “This is part of the authorities’ attempts to control cyberspace by monitoring the bodies and conduct of women.”