Egypt | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Egypt

Egypt

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

68

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

24

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

20

Although Egyptians have the ability to express their views in a diversity of media outlets, press freedom in Egypt continues to suffer from vague laws, uneven implementation of these laws, and excessive control and oversight by the government. Recently, however, the independent media have operated in a more open environment. The Press Law, Publications Law, and the penal code regulate and govern the press. The penal code provides for fines and imprisonment for criticism of the president, members of government, and foreign heads of state. According to the 1995 Press Law, which was written after the opposition newspaper Al-Sha'ab published articles on corrupt practices among government ministers, the government can impose fines and prison terms for journalists convicted of slander. Though President Hosni Mubarak announced a review of existing legislation affecting the press in early 2004, no substantive progress had been made on reforming press laws by the end of the year. In February, Mubarak promised to submit a bill to the People's Assembly that would end prison sentences for press offenses, but journalists continued to receive jail time. In June, Ahmed Ezzedine, a journalist with the weekly Al-Ousbou, received a two-year sentence for defaming Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Youssef Wali. In June, Mohammad Abu Liwaya of the banned Al-Sha'ab newspaper and Fayez Abdel Hamid of the Parliament News were fined and sentenced to six months in prison for libeling Ibrahim Nafei, chairman of the newspaper Al-Ahram.

 Journalists are also subject to harassment and physical violence, and foreign journalists are subject to expulsion. In November 2004, the editor of the Arab nationalist weekly Al-Arabi, Abdel-Halim Qandil, was abducted and beaten by unidentified assailants. In his writings, Qandil had opposed the idea of inherited power and had written articles criticizing the large number of arrests carried out following a bomb attack at tourist hotels in the Sinai in October 2004. Qandil alleged that his assailants warned him to stop talking about people in high places. In January, the government expelled an American journalist after he wrote articles in an American newspaper about an Amnesty International report on the use of torture and deaths of suspected Muslim Brotherhood members in Egyptian prisons. The journalist was later permitted to return to Egypt, but no clear explanation for his expulsion was ever offered. 

 The government provides subsidies to many major newspapers, and it owns shares in Egypt's three largest newspapers, whose editors are appointed by the president. Opposition parties have the ability to form their own newspapers. Egypt has over 500 newspapers, magazines, journals, and other periodicals. In the past two years, the government has facilitated a greater diversity of media outlets, with the Shura Council's Higher Council for the Press approving the registration of more than two dozen new newspapers, including Al-Ghad, a publication of the recently formed Al-Ghad political party. Nevertheless, numerous magazines and newspapers that have been refused a government license to operate have relied on publishing outside of the country; and in February, the minister of information announced a government decision to limit domestic print runs of foreign-licensed publications. In March, the government lifted its ban on Al-Quds Al-Araby, a London-based Arabic newspaper.

The government controls content in the state-owned broadcast media. However, Egypt permits the establishment of locally based private satellite television stations, and the government does not block foreign satellite channels. With the advent of pan-Arab satellite television channels such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, and Al-Manar, the general public's access to an array of satellite television channels has increased substantially over the last five years, eroding the Egyptian state's monopoly on controlling information on domestic, regional, and global events. Egyptians' access to the Internet has increased significantly over the last five years, and the government generally does not restrict its use. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed in 2004 that the government pressured the country's main Internet service providers to block access to its Web site.