Egypt has a population of 94.8 million. The official language is Arabic and the official religion Islam. The vast majority of Egyptians is Sunni Muslim and speaks Arabic. With a territory over 1 million square kms, the population density is only 7.8%.
According to the 2017 census, the growth of urban and rural population has stabilized with respectively 42.4% and 57.6%. The largest percentages of population are concentrated in the Cairo (10.1%) and Giza (9.1%) governorates. The lowest concentration rates are found in the border governorates, Port Said and Suez.
While TV is the most popular media platform in urban areas, radio still ranks first in the rural areas, mainly because of the lack of infrastructure to develop a broad TV coverage.
The education rate is still higher in urban areas. Generally, 1 Egyptian out of 3 enrolls in education, with 12.4% of them getting a university degree.
Taboos and free speech
Only one out of three Egyptians believes he can speak safely about politics and internal affairs on the internet (30%). The percentage of Egyptians who think they can express themselves freely, especially when addressing controversial issues or uncommon opinions has decreased enormously in the last two years (48% in 2013 versus 45% in 2015 and 29% in 2017), especially in light of the desire of the state to control cyberspace.
Religion and religious minorities remains one of the thorny issues, which is therefore tightly monitored and managed by the security services stating national security reasons. While a minority of Egyptians are Christians, there is no official figure. The mainstream media however contributes to the stereotype of peaceful coexistence between the crescent and the cross, without reflecting the true realities of cultural, religious and social diversity.
Known to keep conveying stereotypes, television still ranks first among Egypt's most popular media platforms, at the level of daily news, with a quarter of the population consuming news on TV every day. It still remains the main platform through which Egyptians get news on public affairs (74% in 2017 compared to 84% in 2013). However, the increase in the number of smart phone users, as well as the ability of larger numbers of citizens to connect to the Internet and international information networks at a lower cost represent a great challenge to TV channels, both in regards to their ability to gain public confidence and to retain their reach.
This trend can be explained by both the demographics and the loss of credibility of mainstream media since the 2011 revolution.
A third of Egyptians are 15 and younger
One Egyptian out of three is less than 15 years old. This is the highest part of the population, compared to 26.8% aged 15-29. This demographic situation has an important impact on the media market. For example, 42% of Egyptians read their news on their smart phones despite the poor Internet service in most parts of the country. It is estimated that only 29.3% of the Egyptian population uses computers and 28.9% use the Internet.
Illiteracy is another challenge to media consumption. With more than 1 Egyptian out of 4 considered as illiterate - 30.8% of Egyptian women and 21.1% of Egyptian men -, there are still 54% to believe most in the news they receive through interpersonal relations. This number has declined – it was 73% in 2015.
During the 2011 revolution, with the rapid development of the use of new technologies, trust was improved towards private media outlets. Giving them the ability to reach out to their audiences online, reliable private media outlets also created competition and the opportunity for Egyptians to boycott state-owned media that had supported the Mubarak regime until its fall. But this positive impact of the Internet on diversity was short lived. It is now generally accepted that shortly afterwards private media largely influenced public opinion against Mohamed Morsi, leading to the coup overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013. Acknowledging the media’s influence, the new regime decided to regain control of the media and passed laws to better control media institutions. In doing so, the government failed completely to regain the public's trust in mass media.
Distrust of foreigners
Foreign media seems no alternative to the lack of distrust in Egyptian media. Only one out of five Egyptians think it is important to get news from foreign agencies and sources (19%); this is the lowest percentage among Arab countries, with Tunisia - for example - registering 50%. As a possible explanation, experts mention the tradition of heavy state control over language and religion throughout the Egyptian history.