Egypt talk shows shut in media clamp

The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media critical of authorities after two popular talk shows were closed down.

The closures come during a sensitive time for Egypt with parliamentary elections slated for November, less than two months away and constant speculation about 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak’s health.

“There is an organized attack on media freedom in Egypt especially in light of the approaching parliamentary elections,” the union said.

Egypt’s media, especially television, were tightly controlled in the past and restricted to positive coverage of government activities. But an explosion of privately owned satellite stations over the past five years has brought programming that has pushed government boundaries when discussing politics.

The union’s statement said that outspoken editor Ibrahim Eissa was pulled off his talk show without explanation and the 12-year-old program “Cairo Today” was also shut down. Both were broadcast on private television networks.

“This is no coincidence,” said Mohammed Abdel Qudous, the head of the union’s freedoms committee. “And as for the rest of the programs and talk shows, the owners were given orders to tone down.”

Unpaid bills
Egyptian Minister of Communications Anas el-Fiqqi said the closure of Orbit TV’s “Cairo Today” had no political dimension and was only because the network had not paid its bills.

Orbit TV’s Amr Adeeb acknowledged that there had been an “administrative misunderstanding” but pointed out that the network had since paid all its bills and the ban has remained.

“We have been operating in Cairo for 12 years. What has changed?” he asked.. “Does the voice of ‘Cairo Today’ need to be toned down? I have no answer.”

Media watchdogs say growing uncertainty over Egypt’s political future has resulted in a tightening of the once relatively open space for media in the country.

“The independent media is always walking on a tightrope, trying to figure out for themselves what might pass and which might not,” said Bahey Eddin Hassan, head of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies. “There are unseen and unknown red lines.”

The first signs of a crackdown came in early September when private and opposition newspapers were ordered to pull reports of a poster campaign supporting the powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman for president.

Journalists and editors were barred from writing about the story in subsequent issues and the posters were removed from the streets.

The question of who will succeed Egypt’s long-time ruler has gained added urgency since the elder Mubarak underwent surgery.

Mubarak has not yet announced whether he will run for a sixth term in the 2011 presidential elections, and his 46-year-old son Gamal has been a rising force in Egyptian politics since 2000. — Sapa-AP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

2019: The ones who left us

From Uyinene Mrwetyana, Oliver Mtukudzi to Xolani Gwala, Mail & Guardian remembers those who have passed on

More battles ahead for domestic worker unions

Florence Sosiba, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about how important domestic workers are and exclusion in the COIDA

“Life has been good to me, considering where I come from” – Xolani Gwala

Just over a year ago, veteran radio presenter Xolani Gwala’s cancer was in remission. He spoke to the Mail & Guardian once he was back on air.

Kanya Cekeshe’s lawyer appeals decision not to grant him bail to the high court

Kanya Cekeshe’s legal team filed an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday against Monday’s judgment by magistrate Theunis Carstens.

Leader’s principal aim to build IFP

Gravitas: Velenkosini Hlabisa brings his experience to his new post as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Police Minister Bheke Cele addresses Jeppestown

Police minister Bheki Cele visited Jeppestown on Tuesday to speak to business owners and community leaders.

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Joe Biden’s debate guests run the only Zimbabwean restaurant in...

A Zimbabwean restaurant feeding people in need formed an unlikely addition to Joe Biden’s election campaign

The high road is in harm reduction

While the restriction of movement curtailed the health services for people who use drugs in some parts of the world, it propelled other countries into finding innovative ways to continue services, a new report reveals

Khaya Sithole: Tsakani Maluleke’s example – and challenge

Shattering the glass ceiling is not enough, the new auditor general must make ‘live’ audits the norm here in SA

State’s wage freeze sparks apoplexy

Public sector unions have cried foul over the government’s plan to freeze wages for three years and have vowed to fight back.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday