Media landscape

Print press

Egypt has a flourishing print media with some of the oldest and most widely read newspapers in the world. More than five-hundred newspapers are published in the country, regional and local newspapers and magazines included.

Publishers have to obtain a license from the Higher Press Council, and ownership of newspapers is restricted to public or private legal entities, corporate bodies, and political parties. An individual may not own more than ten percent of a newspaper.

The three most important dailies are Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Goumhuria. The government has a large stake in these papers through the Higher Press Council and editors are appointed by the President. Newspapers like Al-Ahrar, Al-Shaab, Al-Wafd and Al-Watan Al-Arabi are published by political parties. There are independent newspapers as well but they have a lot of problems with government interference. Forbidden organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood have resorted to e-newsletters and blogs.

Audiovisual media

The state-owned Egypt Radio and Television Union dominates broadcasting in Egypt. It owns two national channels, six regional channels, and a number of satellite channels. The ERTU also operates the Nile TV Network.

In 2001, the state’s monopoly on the broadcasting sector was lifted. Since then, at least eighteen independent satellite channels have started broadcasting, many of them operating from the 'Media Free Zone' at October 6th City.

The Egyptian radio network, operated by the Egypt Radio and Television Union, is the oldest and the most developed in the Arab world. There are about seventy stations that belong to eight national networks and broadcast on FM, AM and short wave.

The state monopoly on radio broadcasting was lifted in 2003. Egypt now has two privately owned radio stations, Nougoom FM and Nile FM.

The Higher Press Council controls the appointments of the directors of the Egypt Radio and Television Union.

Online media

Internet services started in Egypt in late 1993. Currently there are about 5,3 million Internet users and the Egyptian government has undertaken several projects to increase its use. The most important was the Free Internet Initiative in 2002 which aimed at providing Internet access at the cost of an ordinary phone call. The National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) administers the telecommunications utilities.

Blocking websites is practiced in Egypt without any legal procedures. Despite that, the Internet is relatively free compared to traditional media. The growth of the internet and the lack of other platforms for expression have turned the Internet into a platform for political protest against the government. There is a high volume of Egyptian weblogs. Some bloggers have paid a price for their activities, notably Kareem Amer who was arrested and convicted to four years in prison.

Several newspaper websites, such al-Shaab, and websites belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood have been blocked, as well as some anti government websites such as

News agencies

Egypt has the oldest press agency in the Middle East, the Middle East News Agency (MENA). The agency reflects official viewpoints and is run as a government department.

Media organizations

The official journalists’ association in Egypt, the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, is controlled by the government. All journalists working in the print sector are required to be a member. In 1997, a journalist tried to establish an independent union but he  was persecuted on charges of fraud. The syndicate is not a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Egypt, however, has a vibrant civil society and many human rights organizations and other groups work in the field of freedom of expression, such as the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Media policies

In 2006, a controversial new press law was passed. Although it reduces the number of reasons for which journalists can be imprisoned, it still allows for journalists to be jailed for writing and publishing reports that criticize top government officials or foreign heads of state. It also increased fines for those convicted of libel.

When it was passed, twenty-eight opposition and independent newspapers and journalists held a one-day strike to protest against the legislation despite some last minute amendments by Mubarak who had earlier promised to lift laws criminalizing journalism.

Officially there is no pre-censorship of the Egyptian media, but journalists and publishers are harassed or arrested when certain lines are crossed. The prevailing form of control of the Egyptian media is through self-censorship. The Islamic opposition and other critical voices are silenced with strong measures. Typical taboos are relations between Copts and Muslims, publicizing terrorist ideas, human rights violations, criticizing the President, his family and the army, and promoting modern versions of Islam.

Egypt has been under a State of Emergency since 1981, which gives the president power to order media censorship simply by evoking public peace and national security.