CAIRO: Egypt’s telecom and information ministries ordered nine television channels to relocate their live broadcasting units to the state-owned Media Production City, or their licenses will not be renewed.
The channels, which offer live programming from Egypt, will not be provided a broadcast frequency by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority if they fail to comply.
Officials at both ministries could not be reached for comment.
According to AP, several private broadcast service providers said Wednesday that they received letters from the telecom regulator ending their standing permits to offer live broadcast feeds from Egypt starting Friday.
Nader Gohar, the owner of one of the affected companies, said the steps to acquire new licenses are unclear and are buried in red tape and crippling requirements. Violators could face jail time.
"I’ve had to cancel booking and broadcasting for news stations during the parliament elections," Gohar, who runs Cairo News Company, told AP.
The decision comes on the same day the Egyptian General Authority for Investment (GAFI) ordered the shutdown of four satellite channels for violating their license agreement with the Media Free Zone and sent a warning to two other channels, ON TV and Al-Fara’een, for violating the license agreement.
Over the past couple of weeks, popular television show “Al-Qahera Al-Youm,” whose host Amr Adib is known for criticizing the government and the ruling party, was stopped; and opposition journalist Ibrahim Eissa was fired from his position as chief editor of Al-Dostor newspaper, along with sports commentator Alaa Sadek from terrestrial television for criticizing the Ministry of Interior on his show.
Human rights organizations are up in arms over the apparent crackdown on the media in Egypt.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its member organizations the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), have expressed their concern for the “string of events that, taken together, appear to be a systematic crackdown on opposition voices and the press ahead of November’s parliamentary elections,” they said in a collective press statement.
“FIDH, EOHR and CIHRS urge the Egyptian authorities to refrain from imposing restrictions on freedom of expression and to allow dissident voices to be heard,” the statement added.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) described the latest decision as the “most arbitrary decision.”
ANHRI said in a press statement that it “considers the closings, warnings and necessity of having a live emission permit in addition to censoring short messaging services, stopping three talk shows presented by Amr Adib, Ibrahim Eissa and Alaa Sadek and most bluntly silencing Al-Dostor…are all steps in the clear path of absolute loyalty to the government or absolute silence.”
Head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat, told Daily News Egypt last week that “the one thing that survived from the relative openness in 2004 and 2006 was the media freedom which is being [taken] back now by the government.”
Commenting on the news of firing Sadek, Bahgat said, “It’s an indication of how worse things are to become in the upcoming period.”