The Media System in Egypt – Script (en)

The Media System in Egypt

Translation: Abir Kopty and Jeida Elkersh – Freie Universität Berlin

Subtitles: Jeida Elkersh – Freie Universität Berlin




Professor Dr. Inas Mohamed Abu Youssef
Dean – Faculty of Mass Communication, Ahram Canadian University

The Ahram Canadian University is one of the first private universities established in Egypt according to a presidential decree in 2006. It includes 6 faculties and these are Faculty of Mass Communication, School of Business, Faculty of Computer Science and IT, Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Faculty of Engineering.

The Ahram Canadian University includes around 6000 students. The Faculty of Mass Communication at the Ahram Canadian University includes 1000 students.

Today, we shall speak about the Media in Egypt as a part of the interactive approach to International Media in the Arab States and Europe. This presentation comprises 6 main parts.

The first part presents the cultural and social structure in the Egyptian society, and continues with the beginning and development of media in Egypt. The third part talks about the environment of the media system in Egypt, the political and judicial frame of the media in Egypt. We will also talk about the economic framework for media in Egypt. The state of journalism in Egypt will be discussed and finally the technological environment and digital media.

Thank you, I hope you enjoy this lesson.


The political and social framework in Egypt


The Arab Republic of Egypt is located at the heart of the world, namely being an intersection point between the Old World Continents, Africa, Asia and Europe. This made it a cradle of the three main religions and a forum for cultural and intellectual exchange between the East and West and a cradle of continuous civilizations, starting with the pharaonic and passing through the Greek and Roman to the Coptic and Islamic civilizations.

Egypt overlooks two seas, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and has two bays, Suez Bay and Aqaba Bay and on its lands passes the Suez Canal, one of the major international water passages. Moreover, the Nile flows through its lands and is considered the lifeline of Egypt, holding a special place in the hearts of Egyptians.

The land is approximately one million square kilometers, and the population reaches 87 million [as of 2018: 100 million], occupying six percent of the total area.

Egypt encompasses eight economic regions, including 27 governorates. Cairo, the capital, is the largest city in the Arab and African world, considering the number of population reaching 10 million.


Dr. Saeed Sadek, Professor of Political Sociology

If we take a look at the Egyptian society we’ll find some living in cities, some living in the rural areas and others in Bedouin areas. We can say that approximately 48% live in cities, 51% in the rural areas and maybe 1% in Bedouin areas, often located at the borders, such as Marsa Matrouh and Welad Ali and in northern Sinai where there are 13 tribes.


We find many divisions among the Egyptian society. Within the cities, we find class divisions, namely the upper class, the middle class and the lower class. There is western education, eastern education, religious education, private education, resulting in the sum of contradictions and diversity of knowledge in the Egyptian society.

Generally, we find that the society is formed out of 90% Sunni Muslims and maybe 10% Coptic Christians but there are also religious minorities we don’t often hear about. We have around 5000 Bahai people, we also had many Jews before 1975, around 75 000 to 80 000, but now there are only 40 to 50 left, mostly old Jewish women.

The Egyptian woman experienced an enormous social revolution. In the beginning of the 20th century, women didn’t work or even get educated. Nowadays, they study, get educated and work.


Box 1: 22 women candidates in the elections of 1984 (5.6%)

Box 2: 45 women candidates in the elections of 1990 (1,6%)

Box 3: 71 women candidates in the elections of 1995 (2%)

Box 4: 449 women candidates in the elections of 2010 (8%)

Box 5: 984 women candidates in the elections of 2011 (9%)

Box 6: 308 women candidates in the elections of 2015 (5%)


In the past, in traditional Egyptian families, women used to get married early and give birth to a big number of children. This has changed, today marriage comes late for both men and women and the family consists of few members only, with the exception of the rural lower class. As for the middle and upper class, they control the size of the family. Divorce Rates have begun to rise to 40%.

It was expected, with the rise of the revolution in 2011, that it shall not be the only revolution, and a second one shall follow.

Currently, the Egyptian society is still going through a transformation process. It took a long time until the society has calmed down. When revolutions rise, it is a sort of boiling and after some time the boiling starts to diminish.


Media education in Egypt


Professor Dr. Inas Mohamed Abu Youssef
Dean – Faculty of Mass Communication, Ahram Canadian University

Egypt was the first country in the Arab region, Middle East and Africa to start Journalism studies in the early 1930s.

At the time, Egypt had established the High Institute for Press and it only offered graduate courses.

Also, Egypt established the first Faculty of Mass Communication in the Arab Region, Middle East and Africa and from the 1970s till 2014 it remained the only faculty from which media-makers graduated in Egypt. And there have been around 26 departments for media and communication within the colleges of arts.

In 2014 two public universities established Media departments, the first in Bani Sweif and the other in the South of AlWadi and also the faculty of Mass Communication in Al Azhar University was established.


As for the private universities, ever since their establishment decree in 2006, they were eager to include a faculty of mass communication in their colleges. As a result, there were around 8 faculties for media and communication belonging to the private universities at that time.

The faculties of mass communication in Egypt are divided into three main departments, namely, the department of Journalism, the department of TV and Broadcast and the department of Advertising and Public Relations.

Most of the faculties adopt those three main departments, be it a public or a private university.


The History of press in Egypt


Dr. Mohamed Saad
Representative of the International Mass Communication Institute – El Shorouk Academy

Historians disagree on the start date of the Egyptian press. Some mark it with the arrival of the printing press, carried by the French during their campaign in 1798 and the issue of French pamphlets addressing the Egyptian people. Others argue that the true beginning of the Egyptian press dates back to the release of Al Waqa’e’ [The Facts] Newspaper in 1828. And I tend to agree with the second opinion.


Dr. Sameh Abdallah
Director of Al Ahram Regional Institute of Journalism

Ever since that period, the Waqa’e’ Newspaper has still been being issued, carrying the same name, but it has become the official newspaper in Egypt that publishes all the official decrees and laws.

And after every law and decree a comment will follow reading “valid upon publishing in the official newspaper” which is the Al Waqa’e’ Newspaper that was established by Mohamed Ali.


Dr. Mohamed Saad
Representative of the international mass communication institute – Al Shorouk Academy

Thus, we can divide the phases of press development in Egypt, during the 188 years starting from 1828 up until now, into six phases.

The first phase is between 1828 and 1867.

We call it the phase of the official press. The press was owned by the state, expressing the opinion of the governor Mohamed Ali and his children and afterwards the Khedive. Journalism was a mere tool of communication between the governor and the people, with no space for pluralism, freedom of speech or freedom of press.

We call the second phase, from 1867 to 1900, the phase of the popular press.

During this period, the state began to allow and support citizens in managing newspapers. The first popular newspaper, owned by the people was Wadi Al Nil Newspaper, issued by Abdallah Abou Seoud in 1867 upon an invitation from Khedive Ismail. So it was Khedive Ismail who helped him issue the newspaper with the goal of confronting international journalism.

There were competitive newspapers that belonged to the English, French, Greek and Italian communities in Egypt, attacking Khedive Ismail and accusing him of wasteful and reckless spending on the Suez Canal and on parties. Hence, if the official newspaper Al Waq’a’e Almasreya had responded to those accusations, it would not have had any impact or credibility. Therefore, he preferred to have popular newspapers defending his policies against the media of foreign communities

Law for press regulation and nationalization of major newspapers 1960



In 1960, the law for press regulation and nationalization of major newspapers was issued, transferring the ownership of newspapers to a national union and thereby to the state.

During a referendum in 1979, people voted for the press to be the fourth estate in addition to the three components of power: the legislative, executive and judicial powers.


The phase from 1981 to date



Thirdly, the phase from 1981 up until now.

Various partisan newspapers have been issued, expressing their parties’ thoughts and they have been developed and updated to the newest technologies. Also tens of newspapers and magazines, Arab as well as international, have been established in Cairo.


Dr. Mohamed Saad
Representative of the international mass communication institute – El Shorouk Academy

We can say that we have experienced a leap in freedom of press in the period following the 25th of January 2011. And this leap turned into a mess. We have press representing the revolution and another representing the remnants of the previous regime, we have press representing the armed forces and another expressing other political orientation. So there was hustle and bustle.

Thus, we can regard the period of the legislative elections following the revolution of the 25th of January 2011 and the presidential elections in 2012 as the phase with the greatest freedom of press, even greater than the freedom margin that was there between 1950 and 1952.


After the 30th of June 2013, we returned to mobilization and monism press. A press solely representing the actual political authority. We saw many newspapers and talk shows being stopped because the political system didn’t want any pluralism using the claim of terrorism and other challenges facing the country and foreign conspiracy. Consequently, there’s a tendency to go back to mobilization press that existed in the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.


Egyptian Radio – the beginning



This is Cairo.

“This is Cairo” is the most famous line in the Egyptian broadcast. What many people don’t know is that those were not the first words of the radio on its opening day, on the 31st of May 1934 at five o’clock. The first words were “Hello, hello, this is Egyptian wireless broadcast”, followed by Quran recitation by Sheikh Mohamed Refaat.


Dr. Howeida Mustafa
Dean of the International Media Institute – Al Shorouk Academy

The history of Egyptian broadcast is surely a very rich one, having witnessed many important phases and developments during a long period of time.

The beginning of the Egyptian broadcast was similar to the beginning of broadcast in the world. And in the mid-20s the Egyptian broadcast started to appear. It started in a very different way. It was a project of the private sector.

Of course, the private radios existed with a large pluralism, they were associated with the business men and the capital interests and they were to advertise the products of those businesses. Their main idea was clearly advertisement and commercial organization. Radio was technically weak and had limited reach. There were some stations that just covered certain neighborhoods and their signals did not expand to other areas.

But the real value with these private radios is that they brought an interest in the idea of broadcasting. The idea of having media that speaks to the public became relevant even if it was not yet organized or had no organization or high technical capacities.

In that period, Egypt was under British Mandate, and therefore there was a British company that was managing the Egyptian Radio broadcast. The company’s name was Marconi and a contract was signed with this company, and it was the time were the private radios were gone.

This period lasted until 1947, when many problems have aroused due to the control of this company over the Egyptian Radio especially during World War Two. The news policy and how events were covered created conflict with the Egyptian Government who decided to terminate the contract with this company in 1947.

In fact, the private radios were abolished in 1934, since then the phase of official radio broadcast has begun. 1934 is thus the official date that refers to the beginning of the Egyptian Radio.

After terminating the contract with Marconi, the late 1940s and early 1950s have witnessed a significant development of the Radio and its role, especially in the context of the 1952 revolution.

In fact, there was a tight relationship between the 1952 revolution and its goals with the Radio. The Radio was an important platform. We shall not forget the establishment of the Arab Voice Radio in 1953, which was an actual expression of the revolution and Arab nationalism and had an influential role. This Radio asserted and expressed Egyptian foreign policy and its attitude towards the Arab World and Egypt’s role as the leader of the region.




The Egyptian TV was launched at 7pm on the 21st of July 1960 and it broadcasted for 5 hours daily to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the July revolution. The broadcast started with reciting some verses from the Holy Quran and then broadcasting the proceedings of the National Assembly and the speech of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, then the national anthem, the news bulletin and ending with verses from the Quran.


Dr. Howeida Mustafa
Dean of the International Media Institute – Al Shorouk Academy

The television was a big shift in the development of the Egyptian citizen’s awareness. We see that a lot of the programs and the dramas had a very important impact on the public’s awareness and its connection to the development of the society and various social issues.

In the present, we are able to review the important works that have been presented throughout the history of the Egyptian television through conversations with leading authors, writers and symbols of thought and culture. The television and radio’s role in enlightenment was very clear in the sixties and the following period.

The TV also went through a lot of developments, including the appearance of the news channels and niche news stations. For example, the Nile News TV, Egypt Satellite Channel and Nil International channels, that were important to portray a positive image of Egypt. For long time, the Egyptian TV had no competition in the Arab world.

In the late 1990s, the private channels started to appear. A high number of channels were allowed to broadcast using the Nile Satellite and they belonged to the Media Production City, which is the free media zone and an area of media investment in the outskirts of Cairo.

The private satellite channels had an important role and brought to the media landscape more diversity. Their role became evident during the January 25 revolution at the time where the official channels did not cover the events. The private satellite channels gained attention and significance, and we have witnessed the emergence of many channels after January 25, 2011. As the region witnessed big events, this has attracted the attention of international players who revived the idea of international media especially in the Arab region in Arabic. As a result, many countries funded channels or media outlets that are directed to an Arab audience.


Media reality in Egypt


Usama Haikal
Chairman of Egyptian Media Production City

As for the Radio, there was also a growth since 2010 and new private stations have emerged. There were originally 76 station, which are mostly controlled, and part of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) and there are now another 7-8 stations and they operate in cooperation with the ERTU, meaning the Union has shares in them. Most of these stations broadcast from the Media Production City because it is close to the NileSat Satellite. The proximity reduces any technological disruptions that might happen to the connections between the studios, the Production city and the NileSat.

As for the Egyptian print media, the truth is that this is the oldest media outlet and we had many national institutions that were owned by the state, the most important one is Al-Ahram, al-Akhbar, Dar Al-Tahrir, Dar Al-Hilal, Rose al-Yousef and many others.

There are about 55 publications published by these institutions. In fact, this is a large number that pushes us to think, why does the state need to spend funding on such a large number of publications? I think this should change especially that private newspapers have started to appear the in the 1990s. We have currently issued about 620-630 publication licenses for newspapers, many are regional and many others are national. The most prominent of these are Al-Masry Al-Youm, Alwatani, Al Shorouk. These, among many others, form an important basis

and follow specific regulations. There are some violations but in general, they work according to the regulations, and this is what distinguishes the Egyptian print media over other media. The expansion of the media, especially the private, has happened without a reform of regulations and this has come with violations that we all speak about today. This is what should we be fixed in the near future.


Photos of the Media Production City.


In the Media Production City, we firstly have the Egyptian Radio and Television Union that is owned by the state has 23 TV channels and 76 radio stations. There is a problem with this large number. Media is equal to impact. The impact of these channels and stations need to be assessed and accordingly restructured.

The second part is occupied by the private channels, which started to appear in 2000 with the launching of the Egyptian NileSat satellite and the constructing of the Media Production City. They both are a shareholding company that function as a free zone and this is why they are called the free media zone.

Currently, there are 79 studios in the Media Production City, 76 of them are occupied by a large number of Egyptians channels and Arab channels. The number changes from time to time.

In 2016, there was a big change in two entities, one was with the DMC company and the other with the ONTV, which had ownership changes that added more channels to the group, hence this changed the private channels market in Egypt.

The third part in the Media Production City is the external media offices and agencies. These amount to over 200-220 offices spread in the city center area, they get their license from the State Information Service, and their mission is news reporting, therefore, they want to be close to the events. They are mostly renting flats in the surrounding of Maspero (the TV headquarters in the city center).


The legal framework


The Egyptian constitution, which was approved in 2014, has allowed for more liberties than all the ones before.

It included three constitutional parts that related to the future of media in Egypt. They are to be found under articles 211/212/213.

Article 211 discusses the “higher media council”

Article 212 discusses the “national press authority”

Article 213 discusses the “national media authority”, by this they mean national authority for TV and radio.

In summary, the intention is to have a higher media council that authorizes licenses to the private sector, whether it is print, TV or radio.

The print media can acquire a license by “notification” but there are conditions for the notification. If they apply, the newspaper can start working.

As to the TV and radio, anyone who wishes to start a channel or station should apply to the higher council according to article 212, and the council authorizes the license.

Then there are the “standards” which are to be formalized by the practitioners. For example, the journalist syndicate formalizes a Charter of honor for the press or the media, and the higher council monitors the media based on these charters, and develops accountability measures.

People might argue that this enables the higher council to close media institutions. In fact, this is no longer possible for two reasons:

First, other articles in the constitution prohibit the closure of media institutions. Second, in light of the rapid technological development, it is no longer practical to close a channel, because it can open from a different country, Cyprus for example, on a different satellite that can broadcast to the people in Egypt.

Article 213 discusses the national press authority. This authority will basically be the higher press council but with new roles and area of intervention. It grants the council the power to financially manage the state owned press. This means that the 55 press publications will be put under the direct responsibility of the council.

Second issue is related to their impact. Are these state-owned press publications achieving the impact the state aims for? As long as the state funds the media, this means these want to achieve impact through it. Therefore, the mission of the higher council is to manage the finances in a more efficient manner.

As for the higher council for TV and radio, which has the official name “The National Media Council”, and we do not have the right to change its name since this is the name adopted in the constitution but we know that, it is the national council for TV and radio that will replace the “Radio and TV Union”.

The same logic of the Press Council applies here. The Media Council will manage the 23 TV channels and 76 Radio stations that are state owned based on article 213 of the constitution.

This is what is expected to happen in the near future. There are currently many disagreements because the media is not controlled by any laws. The last media law was Law number 13, issued in 1979 and amended in 1989 and it discussed only the Radio and TV Union. At the time, there was no private media sector and the laws do not follow the developments in the number or the technology of the current media landscape in Egypt.

Therefore, we need the application of the new laws based on the constitution of January 2014.

The first call to establish the journalists’ syndicate appeared on al-Ahram newspaper in 1891, then again on Almua’ayyed newspaper in 1909, until the law (number 10) to establish it was issued on March 31, 1941. In December of the same year, the first assembly of the syndicate was held.


Journalists’ syndicate


Yehya Qallash
Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

The Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate is the first Arab journalists’ syndicate in the Middle East. It was officially established in 1941 after fifty years of struggle.

Journalism in Egypt is an old profession that dates back to 300 years; it is more than the age of some countries.

The main aim of the syndicate is the protection of journalists when they face issues with their employers or the authorities. Authorities used to issue many laws that restrict the freedom of press or general freedoms and this was an obstacle for journalists who have paid – and are still paying – a high price defending their profession. We consider the freedom of press as not the sole freedom of the journalist, rather a general freedom of the people and their right to get information and participate. This is how Egyptian journalists perceive their profession and how it became part of their culture since January 25th revolution.

The Syndicate tries to establish the principle of the freedom of press in the constitution, and this was its battle in the last 6 years. Since the approval of the constitution in January 2014, the media community in Egypt in cooperation with many groups has worked to translate the constitution to a series of laws. This included the Syndicate, the Higher Press Council, the TV and Radio Union, the Media Communication Chamber and a group of lawyers and forces who believe in the freedom of press and expression.

Indeed, we have recently finished a draft for a unified media and press law that will be discussed in the Parliament, in the upcoming weeks. We advocate the law as a real translation for the constitution articles that defends the freedom of press and media and as an accumulation of a struggle of over 200 years.


Advertisement in Egypt


Amal Alhumsani
Advertisement economy expert

In Egypt, there is a huge variety of media that share the distribution of the advertisement. The top advertising share goes to the TV stations, followed by street billboards, the “outdoor”, followed by the online-digital advertising, then the radio and lastly the print. The advertisement volume for this year was about 3 to 3.5 billion Egyptian pounds.

TV takes 65-70% of the total advertisement, and this is usually the main income source for the channels. However, the increase in the channels resulted in the increase of the investment in production. There is a big competition between the different channels over the audience or its piece in the advertisement’s cake, which did not increase in accordance with the increase in the content or the number of channels.

As to the street advertisement, according to a latest research, we have 20 outdoor ads in every 1 square km. This is way more than the average in many cities in the world. It is hard to quantify the volume of expenditure on street advertisement because it is not systematic and hard to enumerate, but we estimate that it is about 8 to 10% of the advertisement market.


Electronic Media


Internet has played an important role for media in Egypt. Internet was introduced in late 1993 and Egypt was one of the first Arab countries to use the internet. Internet users’ number has increased significantly from 400,000 in the 1990 to five millions in 2006.


Online advertisement


Amal Alhumsani
Advertisement economy expert

Online-digital advertising composes about 10% of the advertising market. The significant increase happened after the revolution in 2011. Before the revolution, the expenditure on online ads was low and no one considered or allocated budget for it.

When the revolution happened and part of it was organized online, the population and advertisers started to pay attention to it. The online penetration has increased and reached about 45%. This means about half of the population has access to internet, whether via mobile or local area network. In addition, the cost of digital advertising is much lower than the ads on TV, outdoor or in newspapers, while its return on investment is much higher. This is what has made the part of digital advertising in the advertising cake much bigger, in the recent years. This was at the expense of the TV advertising, whose share started to decrease after a peak in 2011 and 2010 before the revolution.



Egypt is considered to have one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, which stands at about 20%, this is in addition to the other new technologies including ADSL and 3.5G which allowed new spaces for communication.

The Egyptian Government initiative in 2002 to connect all citizens to the internet was a successful step. In 2003, the Egyptian Parliament issued the Telecommunication Law that protects the users’ rights, individuals and businesses, and promises internet services to all citizens.  The Law regulates as well the private sector to prevent monopolization.

The Egyptian government provides good services to its citizens via its electronic website, which enables users to surf through most governmental entities, ministries and the parliament. It provides data related to all these entities and contact information. The internet also provides space for an expression of opinions but the Egyptian Security apparatus takes measures against any opposition.

The government has launched as well the electronic website that helps Egyptian citizens to apply online for documents like licenses, birth certificates or others. Egypt is also considered to have the highest Facebook user rate and is ranked number 33 worldwide.

The new media opened up public spaces since 2004, and allowed social movements to form such as the Kefaya and the justice reform movement in 2004, March 9th movement for universities reform in 2008 and the National Association for Change.

The Egyptian government monitors social media accounts of political activists due to their strong influence on the citizens. In 2009, a general strike on Facebook was organized, where activist Esraa Abd Elfattah called for a peaceful strike on April 6th, 2009 and most Egyptian citizens responded to the call. She was later arrested because of her ability to mobilize the public against the regime.

The digital services are flourishing mainly in the field of journalism. Many newspapers have established their own websites, which allow citizens to access information easily.

While the national newspapers have had websites for years, private newspapers such as Al-Masry Al-Youm and Youm7 have created electronic website with a high quality.

People repeat media messages all day long as if it was a ruling, and others hardly pass a day without watching TV with sorrow. No one knows how the scene has started and how it will end. In all cases, thank you for your attention.




Production Dr. Nermin Ibrahim
Technical supervision Ahmad Alkhouli & Ahmad Hasan
GFX Mustafa Albanna
Video Mina Kamal
Voice Over Hiba Mustafa
Editing Basant Kamal
Supervision Professor Dr. Inas Abu Youssef

(Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, Ahram   Canadian University)


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