Egypt - Media Landscape
|Suffrage||Universal, compulsory; 18 yrs of age|
|Currency||Egyptian pound (EGP)|
|Population||80.3 m (2007)|
|Area||1. 001. 450 sq km|
|Total imports (%EU)||€31.2 bn (2006) (39%)|
|Total exports (%EU)||€16.2 bn (2006) (43%)|
|GDP||€75 bn (2005)|
|GDP per capita||€1.068 (2005)|
|Internet users (per 1000 people)||10 (2007)|
|Languages||Arabic (Official); English and French widely understood|
Criticism of the government is commonplace in Egyptian media. But press laws that enforce prison sentences for libel against the president, state institutions and foreign leaders remain in place.
Since it was implemented in 1981, Emergency Law No. 162 has been one of the most repressive tools in government hands. According to the BBC, the unpopular law stipulates that government security forces have the right to detain suspects without bringing specific charges against them. The law also gives the government the right to censor and close down newspapers at will in the name of national security. In 2006, the law was prolonged by two years.
Egypt has the most abundant amount of printed publications in the region. There are at present more than 500 newspapers published in Egypt, including regional publications and magazines. But its long-vibrant tradition has taken a beating from harsh state control. The state has a monopoly on printing, advertising and distribution. It exerts multiple forms of pressure that act as disincentives for journalistic independence. Some established columnists, though, enjoy a higher level of freedom. Print media is divided into three categories: state-owned, party-owned, and privately-held publications.
State-owned publications: The Egyptian government owns three major daily Egyptian newspapers. These are:
Al Ahram, Al Akhbar, and Al Gomhuria. The editors of these newspapers are appointed and compensated by the government.
Political party publications: Most of the party-owned newspapers are weeklies, but the opposition party maintains a few dailies: Al Wafd and Al Ahrar,. The Islamist Socialist Labour party publishes one daily: Al Shaab. There are also publications owned by rights groups.
Privately-owned publications: Tone and content are more free. Very rarely does the Supreme Press Council authorise independent publications that are printed in Egypt. But the vast majority are printed outside Egypt, Cyprus and Lebanon. They are subject to a censor, the Foreign Publications Censor, which can order the seizure of issues or order them not to be printed or distributed.
Egypt’s sole news agency, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) is considered by authorities as a strategically important institution which operates like a government department. It is bureaucratically top-heavy and reflects only official viewpoints. It provides news and information in Arabic, French and English.
Many Egyptian viewers turn to pan-Arab channels to obtain news and information. Egypt is a major force in satellite television. Its Space Channels are popular across Arab-speaking countries.
The Egypt Radio and Television Union, which is state-owned, dominates broadcasting in Egypt.
The State, in 2001, lifted its’ monopoly on the broadcasting sector, paving the way for many other independent broadcasters to operate within Egypt.
The state’s radio monopoly was broken with the arrival of private, commercial music stations.
Private satellite channels have been authorised since 2001 (e.g. Dream TV and Al Mihwar). They are owned by businessmen who are close to the government. Reportages and documentaries have to be approved and are frequently of poor quality and pro-regime.
The Egyptian radio network is operated by the Egypt Radio and Television Union. There are more than 70 stations that broadcast from national networks. Privately-owned radio stations include Nougoom FM and Nile FM.
Six million Egyptians were online by 2007, according to InternetWorldStats. Bloggers have made their presence felt, some of them emerging to form a force of political opposition.
The government took an important step toward making the Internet more accessible to all when it set up of the Free Internet Initiative in 2002. This initiative lowered the cost of Internet access considerably. Fees are now same as that of an ordinary phone call.
Numerous faith-based sites have sprung up in recent years and most of the country’s major papers have their own websites. The web, however, is not used as an alternative media to bypass restrictions on the print press. Traditional journalists make little use of new media technologies. The authorities do not accredit reporters from online media. Arabic-language content tends to be of poor quality because the technological resources are not available to incorporate the detailed requirements of the Arabic language.
In September 2002, the Interior Ministry created a special ITC surveillance unit. It helps the police and security forces to track and arrest web users for reasons of internal security and offence to public morality and decency. The policy was behind the mass arrest and, later, trial, of homosexuals who were using the Internet to communicate.
In December 2002, a new communication law banned any encryption of data without the prior approval of five government departments. Passed on the pretext of fighting against terrorism, it spurned civil liberties. Although the government made an effort to make the Internet more accessible, Egypt was still on the Reporters Without Borders’ list of ‘internet enemies’ in 2006 in large part because of the arrest of bloggers during pro-democracy demonstrations in June, 2006.
Egypt is one of the Arab-speaking world’s fastest growing telecom markets. As of 2006, the number of mobile phone subscribers stood at 18 million.
Learning and support
There is no requirement to graduate from a journalism school in order to be a journalist in Egypt. Most enter the trade with degrees in various subjects or from other walks of life.
Mid-career education and training are rare. The Al Ahram group opened its Regional Press Institute in 1993. It provides training courses in Arabic and English. It has received financial backing from the EU (e.g Med Media) and the USA. Initially, it welcomed a score of Egyptian trainees per annum. It has also trained journalists from outside Egypt. It sends trainees for stints in North Africa and Europe.
Dedicated journalism syllabuses are a university speciality going back to 1939 when Fouad First University’s Faculty of Letters (now Cairo University) offered a media studies degree at the institute of Writing, Translation and Journalism. The institute became a faculty in its own right in 1975, providing a four-year degree courses in Arabic and English in journalism, television and radio, public relations and advertising.
In cooperation with the University of Paris II and the Paris-based Centre de Formation Professionnelle des Journalistes, the institute also offers an Arabic and English language, MA-level degree (magistère), a doctorate-level degree (DESS) and a doctorate in Arabic.
The approach, however, remains highly theoretical with little practical experience. Third-and fourth- year students produce a monthly magazine, Sawt el-Gamiaa (Voice of Univerity). Students take a handful of visits to different media and perform perfunctory exercises in radio and television studios.
Kamal Adham Centre for Regional Training and Research
Based at The American University in Cairo, this centre provides a wide variety of academic and professional training. This includes a master’s degree in television and digital journalism, as well as external training courses for working journalists.
Communication, The American University in Cairo
The American University in Cairo (AUC) offers training programmes for entry-level journalists as well as development schemes for working journalists .A media, journalism and film-making syllabus is also on offer at the AUC, which has state-of-the-art digital facilities, and an extensive library.
The official journalists’ association, the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate (EJS), represents more than 5.000 journalists. It the largest journalists’ union in the Arab world. The EJS conducts elections every two years and contains within it the full political spectrum of Egyptian society. As is common in the Arab-speaking world, all journalists are expected to be members of the EJS to practice their profession. In recent years EJS has led campaigns to decriminalise the media. It has supported journalists prosecuted by the authorities. Created in 1936, the EJS represents journalists working in print media. Those working in (the state-owned) television and radio are government employees.
Independent journalists assert that the EJS is corrupt, fails to defend members and is controlled by the state. It refuses to register journalists based in Cyprus or Lebanon.
MENA- Middle east News Agency
P.O. Box 1165
17 Hoda Sharawi Street
Tel.: +20 393 30 00
Fax :+20 393 50 55
+20 393 74 97
Kamal Adham Centre for Regional Training and Research
113 Kar el Aini Street
P.O Box 2511
Tel.: +20 2 2797 5422/23/24
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, The American University in Cairo
113 Kar el Aini Street
P.O Box 2511
Tel.:+20 279 762 00
Fax:+20-279 575 65