Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office in 2014, Egypt’s media has been confronted by an increasingly tighter legal environment. Ranked 161 out of 180 countries in the RSF World Press Freedom ranking, it has now dropped to a lower position than even during the Mubarak regime.
No independence of the regulation bodies
Right after his second re-election in 2018, al-Sisi ratified a set of controversial new laws to redefine the roles of the regulatory bodies originally created by virtue of the 2014 Constitution.
The law No 175/2018 on Combating Information Technology Crimes: published in the Official Gazette on 14 August, 2018, it establishes the blocking of websites. According to Article 7, websites can be blocked for any published content that is considered a crime under the law, on condition that it poses a threat to national security or jeopardizes the security of the country or its national economy, all of which are vague expressions, usually used by the Egyptian legislator. A site is blocked in this case whether it is broadcasted from inside Egypt or from abroad".
The law No. 178 /2018 on National Media Authority (NMA): published in the Official Gazette on 27 August 2018, it states that the NMA appoints the heads of the state-owned media institutions and websites and dismiss them if they breach their duties or they do not meet the conditions of the appointment (art. 5). A part of its leadership is directly named by the President (art. 7). The NMA is also responsible for implementing and carrying out the maintenance of broadcast studios, news broadcasts and for managing broadcasting rights.
The law No 179/2018 National Press Authority (NPA): published in the Official Gazette on 27 August 2018, it states that the President himself appoints most of its leadership (art. 7). According to the new definition in this law, a journalist is “anyone listed as a member of the Journalists Syndicate.”
The law No 180/2018 regulating press and media: published in the Official Gazette on 27 August 2018, it gives the framework for media regulation and revises the role of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SMRC), granting it powers with regard to blocking websites. According to this law (art. 19) a website is blocked if it publishes or broadcasts false news or promotes or incites a violation of the law, violence or hatred, discriminates between citizens, advocates racism or intolerance, includes defamation or slander of individuals or contains insults to religions or religious beliefs (Article 19). These charges are all loose and vague, making them a means of ever expanding the blocking of sites. Article (19) also gives the SMRC the authority to block personal accounts with 5000 or more followers, as well as blogs. The Law 180/2018 is the first piece of Egyptian legislation to introduce a legal framework to regulate websites. It defines a website as a “licensed page, link or application that offers press, media or advertising content, be it text, audio, pictures, video or multimedia; broadcasts under a given name; is assigned a specific URL and domain; and is created, hosted or accessed via the world wide web.” It allows the presidentially appointed Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR) to monitor and “supervise” all users of social media platforms with more than 5000 followers.
The former head of the Syndicate of Journalists qualified this latest move of “assassination of the journalism profession”.
Unclear rules for media ownership
Media ownership is addressed in the Constitution (Art. 70), and the Press Code sets limits to media ownership. However, implementation remains unclear. Moreover, as the main TV stations are all owned by different players, it is impossible to know whether the General Authority for Investment (GAFI) takes ownership issues into account when issuing licenses to private satellite broadcasters.
Harassment of journalists and online activists
Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in the presidential elections, at least 27 cases of media freedom violations were recorded. Journalists are intimidated and disciplinary measures against national television employees have been taken. Censorship is still happening and journalists were prevented to cover trials and even press conferences. Foreign journalists are also a targeted by the authorities. In 2018, at least two of them were banned from Egypt after they published articles about the country. With 18 individuals imprisoned, Egypt is the biggest jail for journalists.
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El-Din, G.E. (2018). Egypt’s 3 controversial press and media laws finally approved by Parliament. Ahram Online. Accessed on 15 October 2018.
State Information Service (2018). Sisi ratifies National Media Authority law. Accessed on 15 October 2018.
Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression (2018). Under suspicion: Who is monitoring the ownership of the media in Egypt
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Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression (2018). Situation of Freedom of Expression in Egypt, 3rd quarter (July - September 2018)
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