Poet Ahmed Fouad Negm talking about the January 2011 Revolution on Al-Jazeera

Liberalization of Media in the 2000s

There have been dramatic changes to Egypt’s media landscape over the past few decades. Since the early 2000s, Egypt has seen the liberalization of the media market, with the state opening up media ownership to private players. A host of privately-owned newspapers and TV stations emerged and broke the state monopoly over Egypt’s media, introducing audiences to different journalistic practices and narratives. Although state media was still powerful and aimed to control political narratives, there were various other channels that emerged—primarily connected to the Gulf—that offered viewers more diverse television. Moreover, other avenues such as blogging and social media served to open up political space and discussion. The challenge to state media became clear during the revolution itself: state media reported that nothing was taking place, before beginning to report anti-revolution stories, while all other forms of media were carefully documenting and analysing revolutionary events. Key here was Al Jazeera, the channel that is most famous for televising the Egyptian revolution. Al Jazeera was one of the major channels to emerge during the 2000s, and had a major impact on media across the Middle East.

<span class="alert-danger glyphicon glyphicon-exclamation-sign"></span> Yasmin El Baramawy speaks about her experience of being sexually assaulted

Media in Revolutionary Times

In the years since the 2011 revolution, there were two phases in relation to Egypt’s media landscape. Directly after the 18-day uprising, there was a period during which the media opened up and became more free to report, debate and discuss issues related to the revolution and its aftermath. One example was the ability of the media to openly discuss sexual harassment, its causes and possible solutions. For example, in an interview on primetime TV, Yasmin El Baramawy spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted near Tahrir Square in 2012. This was one of the first times that a survivor of rape spoke publicly and on television, marking a shift in how sexual assault and sexual harassment were approached by Egyptian media. Another example of the opening up of the media was Bassem Youssef’s El Bernameg, a political satire show similar to Jon Stewarts’ The Daily Show (see the featured topic on political satire).

The Emergence of Media Monopolies after 2013

Post-2013, however, there was a dramatic change in terms of media control and censorship, linked to shifts in the political economy of media in Egypt, and, in particular, the establishment of media monopolies. Take, for example, the monopoly built by Ahmed Abu Hashima, who emerged as one of the most powerful and influential individuals in Egyptian media. Abu Hashima is a businessman who has been involved in Egypt’s steel and cement industry for over two decades. With the former steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz going into decline following the ousting of Mubarak, Abu Hashima stepped in to take his place as emperor of steel. He is founder and CEO of Egyptian Steel, created in 2010, and listed as the 15th most powerful company in the Middle East. His website listed him as one of the top 100 most powerful Arabs and a self-made entrepreneur role model for young Arab people.

"Baladna Bilmasry" ("Our Country, Egyptian Style") Talk Show: episode with Alaa al-Asswany

The case of Abu Hashima is interesting as it shows how media monopolies directly influence politics through their ability to shape the media agenda. After purchasing ONTV —a channel that was widely watched and heavily associated with televising the revolution—in May 2016, a series of changes racked the company. Numerous anchors and hosts were suspended or pushed out, most notably Lillian Dawood, who was later deported, as well as Reem Maged and Yosri Fouda. What connects these presenters was their critical stance towards some or all of President Sisi’s decisions. Some have said that the channel has undergone a rebranding process, whereby its focus has shifted from political coverage to entertainment and sports.

Another important media monopoly that emerged after 2013 was Synergy, which is affiliated with the Egyptian Media Group, which, in turn, has connections to the General Intelligence Services. Synergy produced more than half of Egypt’s 2019 TV drama shows for Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, which is the main time of year for viewing TV dramas or mosalsalat. The company imposed strict rules about genres and content – which tended to revolve around story lines that presented positive depictions of the police – and the episodes could only be watched on one platform. This resulted in very little interest in Ramadan shows more broadly in 2019, and highlighted the problems with monopolies in the Egyptian media market. The military also moved to create its own media monopolies, launching its own channels, such as the DMC, thereby actively attempting to create a media landscape that serves its rule.

Sewing lips shut

Media Censorship under Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi

Alongside this, after 2013, the government implemented a variety of restrictions on the media, in the form of legislation, arbitrary arrests, controversial trials and closures and blackouts. Al Jazeera, the channel that was most associated with the Egyptian revolution, but which became increasingly seen by Egyptians as the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood, was particularly targeted, with its journalists imprisoned and its website blocked. In addition, the authorities blocked tens of other websites, mainly news websites, also making it illegal for Egyptians to access them. A detailed report on Internet censorship highlighted how pervasive it became. The crackdown intensified within a broader context of a skewed political space. In 2014, for example, Bassem Youssef announced that his show was cancelled following the refusal of several channels to air it. State-engineered control, self-censorship and alignment with the ruling regime have become common traits of media organizations, including those that are privately owned and which were once a diverging voice from state media. An exception is the independent news site MadaMasr, founded in 2013. However, it has found itself under increasing pressure and scrutiny by authorities, including having its website blocked. It seems likely that these trends will intensify in the coming period, pushing more and more people to either self-censor or find other forms of expression.

Further reading

Abu-Lughod, Lila (2008). Dramas of nationhood: The politics of television in Egypt. University of Chicago Press.

Khondker, Habibul H. (2011) Role of the new media in the Arab Spring. Globalizations, 8(5), 675-679.

Mada Masr: Freedom of the Press – https://madamasr.com/en/topic/freedom-of-the-press/

Sakr, Naomi (2013) Transformations in Egyptian Journalism, London: I.B. Tauris.

Sakr, Naomi (2013) Social media, television talk shows, and political change in Egypt. Television & New Media, 14(4), 322-337.

Sakr, Naomi (2001) Satellite realms: Transnational television, globalization and the Middle East. IB Tauris.


Items from the archive

TV Shows
Documentary Films


  1. A lot has been written about social media in relation to the Egyptian revolution and the Arab uprisings more broadly. How significant were ‘old’ media (particularly TV and newspapers) in influencing the revolution?
  2. In what ways did the revolution (re-)shape Egyptian media?
  3. Were there differences between state-owned media and private media in how the revolution and its aftermath were covered?