EJN in Egypt

Working to Build Partnerships for Ethical and Independent Media

The Ethical Journalism Network is working with UNESCO in Egypt and with media leaders, editors and the Syndicate of Journalist to help build a new movement for independent journalism in the context of the political reform movement launched in January 2011. Major events are planned for October and November 2012.

The current Egyptian media landscape

A post-revolution media boom in Egypt has prompted some distrust over ownership and calls for more stringent regulation, despite efforts for improved freedom of speech.

The wave of new media launched in 2011 aimed to take advantage of a new-found liberalism in print and broadcast but as the months have passed there are calls for urgent reform of the country’s sprawling media landscape.

Egyptian media is traditionally either government owned, partisan and owned by an opposition political party, or independent and funded by one or two entrepreneurs.

Critics say the absence of a powerful and independent media regulator in the country has affected the editorial content of both independent and government-owned newspapers, radio and television channels.

The election of a new president gives an opportunity to limit the reach of the supreme council of armed forces, which has been in charge of Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Many observers say urgent restructuring of the media is required including reform of the vast network of government-owned media including newspapers and the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) which operates all eight state TV stations and radio stations.

The Egyptian print media is diversified in terms of content and ownership and includes partisan and independent newspapers as well as government media.

The introduction of satellite channels with new, distinctive programmes has shaken the Egyptian terrestrial television industry with programmes that are attractive in format and more liberal in content compared to the terrestrial channels.

At the same time Egypt is considered to have the highest percentage of Internet users on the African continent. New media have opened windows of communication and encouraged citizens to exchange ideas freely in a society that still embraces authoritarian features.

This changing landscape still operates however in a web of legal and official controls that include the possibility of direct state censorship, legal limits on speech that is critical of the authorities and a penal code that provides numerous opportunities to intimidate independent journalism.

Hands on action in Egypt

The issue of editorial quality and ethical journalism is a major concern. Supporters of the Ethical Journalism Network such as the Media Diversity Institute have been working in the country to promote more inclusive, ethical and independent journalism and other partners are supporting a Media Freedom Coalition which has set out an agenda for constitutional reform.

The Ethical Journalism Network working with UNESCO and local partners to promote urgently needed media reforms. At the moment there is no independent regulatory body to monitor, regulate and strengthen independence and freedom of the media.

One of the first tasks being addressed by the EJN and Egyptian partners is how to build a professional network of editors, journalists and owners who will be able to engage with the new President and the new government on an agenda for change, including putting media self-regulation on the political agenda and carrying out an immediate review and repeal of laws that currently cast a long shadow over how journalism is practiced across all platforms of media.

In October and November 2013 a seminar and conference are planned to launch new initiatives on self-regulation and to help local editors and journalists’ leaders to create a new independent group of editorial executives to give editors and independent media a stronger voice in the debates about media reform.