Media of Egypt
|Life in Egypt|
The media of Egypt is highly influential in Egypt and in the Arab World, attributed to its large audience and increasing freedom from governmental control. Freedom of the media is guaranteed in the constitution, and the government is increasingly respecting this, however many laws still remain that restrict this right. After the Egyptian presidential election of 2005, Ahmed Selim, office director for Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi, declared the era of "free, transparent and independent Egyptian media".
History of the printing press
The printing press was first introduced to Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte during his French Campaign in Egypt and Syria.  He brought with his expedition a French, Arabic, and Greek printing press, which were far superior in speed, efficiency and quality than the nearest presses used in Istanbul. In the Middle East, Africa, India, and even much of Eastern Europe and Russia, printing was a minor, specialized activity until at least the 18th century. From about 1720, the Mutaferrika Press in Istanbul produced substantial amounts of printing, of which some Egyptian clerics were aware at the time. Juan Cole reports that "Bonaparte was a master of what we would now call spin, and his genius for it is demonstrated by reports in Arabic sources that several of his more outlandish allegations were actually taken seriously in the Egyptian countryside."
The written press is very diverse in Egypt, with over 600 newspapers, journals, and magazines. However these are owned mostly or in some way by the government, the opposition or other political parties. Several journalists from private newspapers have been arrested and jailed for breaching laws that prohibit criticism of the President, state institutions and foreign leaders, or "putting out false news harming the reputation and interests of the country". However, unlike many of Egypt's regional counterparts, criticism of the government in general does take place, after amendments to existing press laws in 2006 which however still criminalise libel.
In 2009 an Egyptian court revoked the publishing license for Ibdaa ("creativity"), a small-circulation literary magazine, for publishing a "blasphemous" poem by Hilmi Salem called “On the balcony of Leila Murad" in which God is likened to an Egyptian peasant who farms and milks cows. It came to the attention of authorities at Al-Azhar University, described as “the government’s highest authority on religion”, who then petitioned the courts, who ruled that "Freedom of the press ... should be used responsibly and not touch on the basic foundations of Egyptian society, and family, religion and morals". Over the past two decades, Al-Azhar University censored more than 196 texts.
There are two state broadcasters and an increasing number of private broadcasters. Figures from the CIA World Factbook state more than 98 television channels in 1995, and 57 AM and 14 FM radio channels in 1999. Pan-Arab channels such as Al-Jazeera are also very popular among viewers, especially for news, as private broadcasters are forbidden to broadcast their own news, instead only focusing on entertainment or music. The Ministry of Information controls content in the state-owned broadcast media. Egypt was the first Arab nation to have its own satellite, Nilesat 101, which allows the Egyptian TV and film industry to supply much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City. The previously tight controls on state TV and radio gave way to even and fair coverage of all political parties involved in the Egyptian presidential election of 2005, a first for Egyptian media. However in 2006 several journalists working for the Cairo branch of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera were detained for investigating subjects such as police brutality and "harming the country's reputation".
Egyptian radio broadcasting (as in both FM and AM bands) began to serve in Egypt in the 1920s as locally owned radios. They began airing radio as The Egyptian State Radio on the 31 May 1934 in an agreement with the Marconi Company. In 1947 the contract with the Marconi Company was canceled and radio broadcasting was nationalized by the Egyptian government.
By the early 1990s, Egypt had only four FM stations, but the number increased to six by the end of the decade. In 2000 stations moving from the AM band and the introduction of private stations raised the number to ten stations as of 2006.
Radio as a Political Tool
Radio has also historically been utilized as a political tool in Egypt beginning under the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.(10) Nasser became president of Egypt in 1954 and served until his death in 1970.(10) When Nasser came to power he realized that radio could be utilized as a powerful political tool for two reasons. First, the illiteracy rate in Egypt has been traditionally high.(11) Using radio to spread political ideas, therefore, allowed a greater number of the population to hear his political ideas. Many Egyptians, both literate and illiterate, also enjoyed listening to radio, so this provided an alternative means to propagate his ideologies other than print media.(11) Second, he had the power to expand the radio to all parts of Egypt allowing for the dissemination of his political messages throughout Egypt.(11)
The main program Nasser utilized to voice his politics was the Voice of the Arabs.(10) This program was started on July 4th, 1953 and was directed by Ahmed Said.(10) Said was also the chief announcer of the program and had a close relationship with Nasser and his administration. Nasser’s political goals for Egypt were seen as strongly revolutionary and adopted positions such as anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, and anti-Zionist.(10) These positions were highly supported and strongly voiced on the Voice of the Arabs in the mid to late 1950’s.(10) This revolutionary propaganda influenced two significant events in Arab countries in the 1950’s.
The first was when the Voice of the Arabs began a series of broadcasts in 1955 that called for Jordanian citizens to campaign against their countries involvement in Baghdad Pact and against their governments close involvement with Britain.(10) This resulted in the dismissal of General John Bagot Glubb, a veteran soldier and Arabist who had been in Jordan over 25 years, as a commander of Jordanian forces.(10) Although the broadcasts cannot be proven fully as the reason for his dismissal, it is strongly believed that the demonstrations that resulted from the broadcasts influenced the Jordanian presidents decision.(10)
The second was broadcasts from 1955 to 1958; which promoted revolution in Iraq.(10) At this time period Iraq had joined the Baghdad Pact, and Nasser saw this as Britain attempting to westernize the Arab world.(10) Due to this the Voice of the Arabs broadcasts were calling on for a revolution by the Iraqi citizens against the royal family and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said.(10) Broadcasts in 1957, in fact, called for the outright assassination of es-Said and the royal family.(10) In 1958, a military coup overthrew the Iraqi government and es-Said and King Faisal II of Iraq were killed.(10) The Egyptian broadcasts were not the sole cause of this, but Ahmed Said did receive a letter with a piece of es-Said’s finger inside that thanked him for the support.(10)
After 1958, the role of radio as a powerful political tool declined.(10) By the 1960’s radio had been around for many years in Egypt and the emergence of television created competition for the radio. Also, after 1970, radio programs such as the Voice of the Arabs reduced their broadcasting hours substantially. During this same period religious radio programs increased more than any other.(10)
The government has actively encouraged internet usage, quadrupling over the last few years with around 17 million regular users in 2010, around 21 percent of the population. Internet penetration jumped in 2013 reaching 49.6% of Egypt's 90 million population. The internet is often used for political opposition, blogging, and lively debate amongst the public and by the media which can publish stories that are prohibited in the print media. The Egyptian government does not widely censor the internet, though the state-run Supreme Administrative Court allowed the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Communication to close down or block websites that are a "threat to national security". However, several people have been detained for insulting Islam, state institutions and President Hosni Mubarak during pro-democracy protests, as well as government officials in cases of abuse by the security services. On 10 April 2011, Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil was sentenced to three years in prison by a military court on charges of insulting the armed forces and publishing false information after he published an article on 28 March titled "The people and the army were never one hand" in which he detailed cases of abuse by the military and criticized the Supreme Council of Armed Forces for undermining the revolution.
Following the peace talks over the Middle East conflict at the Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt, Al-Ahram was caught doctoring a photo that had shown U.S. president Barack Obama in the front to show Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak walking in the lead on a red carpet ahead of Binyamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan's King Abdullah II. Egyptian bloggers said the photo was "unprofessional" and said it was an example of deception towards the people of Egypt; others said the photo was an attempt to distract attention from Egypt's waning role. However, Osama Saraya, the editor-in chief, defended the decision saying "The expressionist photo is ... a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other." Following the Jan. 25 uprising, Egyptian media witnessed unprecedented freedom criticizing the government openly and interviewing many opposition figures from the Muslim Brotherhood and political activists. The only taboo was criticizing the ruling military council at the time. The trend continued until the fall of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. A significant drop in freedom followed since the military's ouster of Morsi. That drop continued with Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi being elected as president in June 2014.
Notes and references
- Country profiles: Egypt BBC
- "Plus ca Change: The Role of the Media in Egypt's First Contested Presidential Elections", TBS
- Freedom House 2007 report
- Cole, Juan (2007). Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 148.
- Reporters Without Borders 2008 report
- Egypt bans 'blasphemous' magazine, BBC News, 8 April 2009
- Krajeski, Jenna (10 April 2009). "Good Shepherd". The New Yorker.
- Jailed Egyptian Blogger on Hunger Strike Now in Critical Condition Pulitzer Center. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
- Al Manar[dead link]
10. Boyd, Douglas; Development of Egypt's Radio:'Voice of the Arabs' under Nasser. Journalism Quarterly pp: 645-653
11. Chiba, Yushi; Media History of Modern Egypt: A Critical Review. 2010 pp: 8,11
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