Egypt issued new media restrictions Wednesday that critics say effectively put all live television media, including talk shows and news shows, under government control. The telecommunications regulator cancelled the broadcast permits [Washington Post report] of all private media companies forcing them to apply for new licenses through the state television agency. The measure is part of a series of events that critics argue are meant to stifle the media in the run-up to the November parliamentary and the 2011 presidential elections. State media officials said the restrictions are meant as part of a broader reform on independent media [Reuters report] and not meant to stop free speech.
Earlier this month, Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief and creator of the private daily paper Al-Dustour [official website, in Arabic], was fired [BBC report] after he published an op-ed piece by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei. In 2008, Eissa was convicted for spreading "rumors" [JURIST report] about the health of Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak in an August 2007 report. Egypt's Abbaseyya Appeals Court upheld the conviction [JURIST report] in 2008. In September, it was reported that independent journalist Hamdi Qandeel is expected to go on trial [JURIST report] for allegedly libeling Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abult Gheit [official website]. In 2009, Egypt's Agouza Appeals Court overturned the editors' prison sentences [JURIST report] but upheld their fines. Prior to 2004, Egypt was limited to only state-run media but has since seen a rise in private media.