Egypt continues to be one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. The hopes for freedom that accompanied the 2011 revolution now seem distant.
Pluralism is almost non-existent in Egypt. Al-Akhbar, Al-Ahram and Al-Gomhuriya are the three most popular state-owned national newspapers. Independent media are censored and targeted by prosecutors. As for television and radio, their popularity has confined them to the role of relaying political propaganda.
Virtually all media are directly controlled by the state, the intelligence agencies or a handful of wealthy, influential businessmen who are under the government’s thumb. By contrast, media outlets that refuse to submit to censorship are blocked, as is the case with Mada Masr, an independent news site that has been inaccessible in Egypt since 2017.
Against the backdrop of the government’s counter-terrorism efforts, journalists are often charged with “ belonging to a terrorist organisation” and “disseminating false information”. A 2018 law explicitly authorises surveillance of social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers.
Egypt is a conservative country, run both by the military and the religious establishment. Issues involving the rights of atheists or homosexuals are especially sensitive, and the media that address them may be accused of publishing material “in violation of the country’s moral code”.
Censorship, police raids, shutdowns, arrests, sham trials, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions are all part of the daily life of journalists in Egypt. It is not uncommon to witness smear campaigns agasint them, and surveillance is ubiquitous. Permits are required for travel to certain areas, such as the Sinai and the Suez Canal.
Censorship, police raids, office shutdowns, arrests, sham trials, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions are a daily reality for Egyptian journalists. Defamation campaigns against them are common, and they live under omnipresent surveillance. Authorisation is required for travel to certain areas, such as the Sinai and the Suez Canal.