The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the increasing acquisition of Egypt’s media outlets by businessmen close to the government and intelligence services in a report issued on Tuesday, following the takeover of the privately owned Al-Hayat channel.
RSF referred to a number of media institutions recently bought by pro-government business tycoons, a practice that has now extended to media institutions already considered pro-government.
Al-Hayat, previously owned by businessman and head of the liberal Al-Wafd party Al-Sayed al-Badawy, is the latest to be acquired. According to the report, the network was sold to the Falcon Group, a security firm headed by a former military intelligence official.
RSF highlighted the brief suspension of the channel earlier this year. Al-Hayat was forced to halt broadcasting temporarily in July after the government demanded the station pay off accumulated debts, which the report linked to Badawy and the Wafd Party’s rejection of the Tiran and Sanafir deal which was approved by Parliament in June.
The report also references the 2016 acquisition of the privately owned ONtv channel by Ahmed Abou Hashima, a pro-government businessmen who also owns Youm7, Sawt al-Omma, Ain and the Dot Masr website. Several journalists working for Youm7 were suspended in July after criticizing the Tiran and Sanafir deal on their personal Facebook pages, with all but three returning to work.
The recently created DMC channel, funded by Egypt’s Armed Forces, was also cited as a means of extending government control over Egypt’s media landscape. The Paris-based organization criticized its support of the government and use of anti-Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric.
The report followed the confiscation of the privately owned, pro-government Al-Bawaba newspaper’s Sunday edition. According to editor-in-chief Abdel Rehim Ali, the orders to suspend the issue stemmed from a front-page report questioning the Interior Ministry’s delay in arresting fugitive former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. Several other pro-government media outlets subsequently criticized Ali for insulting Egypt’s security services.