Egypt/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.7 Mass media

This sector consists of radio, TV and newspapers

1: Radio

On 31 May 1934, 5.30 pm, the voice of announcer Ahmad Salem saying this is Cairo marked the birth of the official radio station of the Egyptian government.

On 23 May 1949 the first complete radio legislation, also known as Law 98 of 1949 pertaining to the organization of Egyptian radio, was issued.

23 June 1952 marked the beginning of a transitional period for radio broadcasting when the first shout declaring the eruption of the Revolution was heard. The national radio put itself at the service of the Revolution and was the first to broadcast news about the Revolution and propagate its goals and was the key mean of publicity and communication with the public.

Egyptian radio at that time was characterized by expansion and the spread of its programs and in 10 Nov. 1952 a statuary instrument was issued stipulating the annexation of Egyptian radio to the Ministry of National Guidance instead of the Council of Ministers.

In 1955 the Ministry of National Guidance deemed that some provisions in Law 98 of 1949 needs to be amended in order to keep pace with the radio movement. So this Ministry drafted a new law for the organization of the national radio and this was issued on 7 Dec. 1966 and in 1958 a presidential decree was issued stipulating that the national radio is a public body with legal entity and it shall be annexed to the Presidency.

In 1961 a presidential decision was issued stipulating that the national radio is public body of economic nature and shall be named the Egyptian Institution for Radio and TV and was put once more under the supervision of the Ministry of National Guidance. This situation remained unchanged until four laws pertaining to the establishment of the Radio and TV Union were issued in 1970 and 1971. Afterwards, Law 13 of 1979 pertaining to Radio and TV was issued and some articles of this law were amended by virtue of Law 223 of 1989 (currently in force).

Article 2 of Law 223 of 1989 stipulates:

The Union seeks to achieve the mission of broadcast media (radio and television) in terms of policy, planning and implementation within the general policy of the society and its information requirements by utilizing the latest technologies and developments in terms of employing the broadcast media to serve the society and achieve its goals. For that purpose, the Union shall:

  • Perform the audio and visual broadcasting service efficiently and ensure that it is directed to serve the public and national interests in the framework of the genuine values and traditions of the Egyptian people and according to the general principles stipulated in the Constitution.
  • Promote the socialist democratic regime, national unity and social peace, safeguard the dignity and freedom of individuals and confirm the rule of law through all broadcasted radio and TV works.
  • Propagate cultural values, include the educational, civilizational and human aspects in the programs according to the refined Egyptian, Arab and international vision to serve all social categories and create special programs for children, the youth, women, workers and peasants to contribute in building the Egyptian citizen culturally and preserve family cohesion.
  • Develop the broadcast media and adhere to religious and ethical values.
  • Contribute in expressing the demands and daily concerns of citizens, bring up public issues in order to present all opinions, including party trends, and put forward the efforts exerted to address these concerns objectively.
  • Announce the discussions of the People's Council and only broadcast items officially requested by the government and everything related to state policies and high national principles and interests.
  • Dedicate a time in the broadcasting for political parties upon elections to allow them explain their agendas for the public and also dedicate times to present the main public opinion trends.
  • Ensure efficient service to cover all parts of the Republic, provide the latest broadcasting technologies and ensure scientific ad economical management of all equipment and facilities.
  • Create the proper climate to sponsor and promote talents.
  • Strengthen ties with similar broadcasters in Arab and Islamic countries and the world.
  • Develop the broadcasting services intended for overseas listeners and ensure that they achieve the high interests of the state.
  • Support news bulletins and active coverage of local and international events, ensure objective commentating and support and promote correspondents locally and overseas.
  • Develop the technical and professional standard of the people in charge of radio and TV broadcasting services.

In the early 1980s the Egyptian radio service witnessed a major boom with the introduction of the radio network system, which consists now of nine networks; General Program, the Voice of Arab, Middle East, Holy Quran, Guided Radios, Youth and Sport, Regional Radio, Cultural Network and Specialized Radios.

And, according to SIS, the Radio and Television Union was established in 1979, which turned radio stations to radio networks , in the present time , there is seven radio networks in Egypt, which is:

  • the National program
  • local stations, this network includes eleven different local stations.
  • Cultural Network includes European stations, music and educational stations.
  •  Middle East Network.
  • Arabs voice Network, consists of three stations.
  • The Quran netwrok.
  • Multilingual network, which broadcast through 44 stations in 34 different languages, this network is directed to different countries and nations in different continents.

In recent years, there have been a lot of additional stations on short wave FM channels , including local and specialized channels, including two commercial stations. Total broadcast hours in Egypt is around 190 thousand hours a year on average of 520 hours daily.


2: Television

TV broadcasting started in Egypt on 21 June 1960 (Channel One) and a year later Channel Two began broadcasting. Since the 1980s, the number of TV channels has been on the rise. The country has now eight TV channels in addition to the satellite channels and after the launch of Nile Sat channels one, two, three, five and eight began to broadcast on Nile Sat to expand its coverage and reach the areas deprived of reception due to their geographic location.

The total TV broadcasted hours in 2003-2004 reached 53,718, with an average daily broadcast of 174 hours[1].

Article 4 of Law 223 of 1989 stipulates:

The Minister of Information shall assume the supervision of the Radio and TV Union and shall follow up the implementation of national objectives and services, in addition to the other duties stipulated in this Law, in order to guarantee that these objectives and services are linked with the high policy of the state, national peace, national unity and the state's information plan. The Union shall be run by a board of trustees, board of delegated members and a general assembly and shall consist of the following sectors: Union leadership, radio and TV, radio engineering, production, financial and economic affairs and secretariat. Other sectors may be created according to work requirements by virtue of a decision issued by the board of trustees.

3: Newspapers

The publication of the first newspaper in Egypt dates back to the late eighteen century during the French Expedition.

By the publication of Al- Waqae’a Newspaper, Mohammad Ali had been pushing what the commission had started forward. Since Newspapers had its important role in the channeling public opinion of Egypt along its history, specific publication allowing and published subject supervising rules and regulations were regulating for them.

By virtue of president Gamal Abdel Nasser decision Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar, El-Hilal and Rose El-Youssef newspapers had been nationalized. The decision also prohibited the publication of newspapers except by a license by the nationalist union which later had become the Supreme Press Council.

Reflecting the trends of July Movement, the Republic Newspaper had been issued with Anwar Al-Sadat representing its Editor in Chief. However, laws controlling the press have changed by each president.

During the term of Al-Sadat, the then existing parties had been allowed to publish their own newspapers “Al-Wafd, Al-Ahali and Al-Ahrar newspapers”. Though press diversity had been allowed under the presidency of Mubarak by legislating vague publishing and imprints laws, imposed restrictions on mass media were stricter, and consequently, freedom was insured by the constitution imprisoned by the law.

The Egyptian constitution asserts the freedom of expression, press, and creation and scientific research in articles (47), (48), (49), by which the state guarantees freedom of scientific research and literary, artistic and cultural creativity, moreover; a six article chapter titled “Press Authority” is devoted for press authority, autonomy, supervision and seizure banning, the freedom of publishing and the journalist’s right to access information. These articles are from article 206 to article 211.

Egypt has also signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1982, these numerous articles and laws have become meaningless as a result of the imposed restrictions on the freedom to express in Egypt.

Many legal restrictions are imposed on the freedom to express, of which are the following:

Constraining newspaper publication right by virtue of Press Sovereignty Law 96/1996, according to which only the Supreme Press Council is empowered to license newspapers publication, restrict the publication right to political parties and public and private legal personalities and under unachievable conditions. Journalists and press institutions of the published newspapers are censored and supervised by the Supreme Press Council as well as evaluated.

Suspending and censoring newspapers; as Press Law 20/1936 has given the Council of Ministers the right to ban the circulation of printed materials published overseas as well as the re-printing of them. In addition, by virtue of Article (10) of the same law The Minister of Interior has the right to prohibit whatever issue of whatever newspapers published overseas from entering or being circulated inside Egypt.

By virtue of the Emergency Law that has been in force in Egypt for over quarter of a century, the republic president has the right to supervise newspapers, publications, imprints, documents and drawings as well as all means of expression, publicity and advertisement, control and seize them and close their printing facilities.

By virtue of Press law 20/1963 newspapers may be controlled or seized in case of violating any of the articles (4, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19), or committing any of the crimes stated in part (14) of book tow of the Penal Code pertaining to press crimes and misdemeanors.

Under the same law, cancellation of the decision to issue of a newspaper may be taken in the following two cases: if the newspaper is not published within the three months after notice date (article 18 of Press Law or Law 20 of 1936) and if the newspaper failed to be issued regularly.

Law 121 of 1975 pertaining to prohibiting the use and publishing of official documents prohibits the circulation and publishing of information.

Law 35 of 1960 pertaining to census and surveys (already tackled).

Law 313 of 1956 amended by virtue of Law 14 of 1967 and General Intelligence Law 100 of 1971 prohibit the publishing of any information about the armed forces.

In addition to Law 96 of 1996 that stated in its fourth article: imposing censorship on newspapers is prohibited, with the exception in cases of declaring a state of emergency or in war time, limited censorship may be imposed on newspapers with regard to matters related to public safety or national security.

The text also includes the government’s decision in May 2014 to monitor the internet in order to detect profanity, insults and incitements for sabotage and violence; a decision that was justified by military experts, strategists, and former officers.   

Imprisonment related to publishing crimes

The Penal Code is full of articles which impose prison terms in cases related to freedom of expression such as the articles 171-200, chapter 14 which stipulate imposing prison terms in crimes such as "incitement to overthrow the regime" and "changing the main principles of the constitution" (article 174), "hating or disdaining a sect" and "disturbing public peace" (article 176), violation of morals", "damaging the country's reputation" and "displaying improper aspects" (article 178) and "insulting the Republic's President" article (179).

Some articles impose prison terms in crimes related to freedom of the press such as "cursing the People's Council, the Shura Council or other official bodies" (article 184), "cursing a public employee or a member of parliament" (article 185), and "insulting the position or prestige of a judge or attempting to affect the case" (article 186), not to mention the prison terms imposed in cases related to publishing false news or information (article 188), publishing information about secret law cases (article 189), publishing information about cases whose publishing is prohibited (article 190), publishing inaccurate, false or distorted information about deliberations or trials (article 191) and publishing any, inaccurate or false information about the secret sessions of the People's Council (article 192), in addition to the prison terms imposed by other articles of the Penal Code in crimes related to libel and slander.

Mass media is subject to Law 38 of 1992 and also to the control of the religious establishment according to the legal fatwa issued by Advisor Tarek Al-Bichri (Al-Azhar shall have the final say in any Islam-related matter in audio and visual works).


Chapter published: 01-04-2016