YouTube banned over Islam film

A Cairo court has ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the film, which he described as "offensive to Islam and the Prophet (Muhammad)."

He made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where the first protests against the film erupted last September before spreading to more than 20 countries, killing more than 50 people.

The ruling, however, can be appealed and, based on precedent, might not be enforced.

The 14-minute trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims portrays the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, a central figure to Islam, as a religious fraud, womaniser and paedophile. It was produced in the United States by an Egyptian-born Christian who's now a US citizen.

Egypt's new constitution includes a ban on insulting "religious messengers and prophets."

Broadly worded, blasphemy laws were also in effect under former President Hosni Mubarak prior to his removal in a popular revolt two years ago.

Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the decision to ban YouTube stems in large part from a lack of knowledge among judges about how the internet works. Activists say this has led to a lack of courtroom discussion on technical aspects of digital technology, leaving cases based solely on threats to national security and defamation of religion.

"This verdict shows that judges' understanding of technology is weak," Eid said. "The judges do not realise that one wrong post on a website does not mean you have to block the entire website."

Eid, who is executive director at The Arabic Network for Human Right Information, said the government should file an appeal and make it clear to judges that, at most, only specific pages on websites should be blocked.