The New Press and Media Regulation Era in Egypt

By:
Mohamed Hashish
Partner
E. m.hashish@shandpartners.com
M. +2 010 0047 0077
T. +202 2516 2131 (Ext. 101)

 

May 16, 2020

Egypt is one of the three largest economies in Africa and is strategically positioned at a crossroads between the East and West, making the country a significant player in international trade in the Middle East and Africa region. Egypt is home to the Suez Canal which connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and is a key artery in global trade.

The total area of Egypt is 1,010,408 square kilometers including 995,450 square kilometers of land and 6,000 square kilometers of water. According to the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, the population reached more than 100 million people in 2020. Egypt is divided into 27 governorates, 217 cities and 4617 villages. Governorates with the highest population are Cairo (10.8%), Giza (8.6%) and Sharqiyya (7.4%).

According to the latest fDi Report 2020 issued by fDi Intelligence, “Egypt replaced South Africa as the second ranked destination by projects in the region, experiencing a 60% increase from 85 to 136 projects”. This ranking covers both Middle East and Africa regions.

Furthermore, Egypt managed also to be on top of all ranked countries in the Middle East and Africa regions by capital investment in 2020 by acquiring 12% capital investment with a total value of $13.7 billion.

No one can deny the rapid transmission of all types of press and media services into the technology space. The press and media services in Egypt, being a country that witnessed two (2) revolutions in 2011 and 2013, were definitely affected by such rapid transmission. This was one of the main reasons why Egypt issued an entire new Law under No. 180 of 2018 regulating Press, Media and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (“SCMR”) (the “Media Law”).

The issuance of the new Media Law marked the start of a completely new Press and Media Era in Egypt and raising a lot of legal issues that do require more and more clarification.

The Media Law entered into force on August 28, 2018 and the Executive Regulation thereof was required to be issued by the Prime Minister within three (3) months starting from the said date (i.e. by no later than November 28, 2018); however, the said Executive Regulation was issued on February 16, 2020 under No. 418 of 2020 and not within the timeline required by the Media Law.

Following the issuance and entry into of the Executive Regulation in Egypt, and exactly on May 5, 2020, SCMR has just issued its Decree No. 26 of 2020 issuing the Licensing Framework outlining the main licensing requirements to provide press and media services in Egypt (the “Licensing Regulation”). This Licensing Regulation was published on May 10, 2020 in the Egyptian “Al-Waqa’i’ al-Misriyya” – meaning the Egyptian Affairs in Arabic – which is an addendum to the Egyptian Official Gazette that is published on a daily basis except for weekend days and public holidays and covers, inter alia, (i) Prime Minister’s Decrees, (ii) any other Ministerial Decree, (iii) decisions and/or regulation issued from Governors, and/or (v) any other matter that is required to be published in the official “Al-Waqa’i’ al-Misriyya” in accordance with the applicable laws and regulation.

Outlined below a summary for how this new Press and Media Regulation Era looks like:

Required legitimization:

All persons, whether natural or juristic persons, that are subject to the Media Law including, inter alia, entities, organizations, press, “media” and “websites” that were established before the issuance of the Media Law shall legitimize their legal positions in full compliance with the Media Law, its Executive Regulation and the Licensing Regulation by no later than six (6) months starting from the entry into date of the said Executive Regulation (i.e. by no later than August 16, 2020).

SCMR:

According to the Media Law, SCMR is empowered, inter alia, to:

  • receive notification for establishing Egyptian newspapers or non-Egyptian newspapers that are issued or distributed in Egypt;
  • grant licenses to visual, audio or digital channels that either registered in Egypt with GAFI or non-Egyptian channels that are being broadcasted from Egypt;
  • determine and apply the rules and requirements protecting audience in Egypt;
  • grant licenses to broadcast relay stations, websites, digital and satellite platforms, fiber satellite distribution and content distribution;
  • authorize the importation of satellite and internet broadcasting devices; and
  • authorize the importation of non-Egyptian prints.

 

Media Law Scope:

The new Media Law is applied to all persons, whether natural or juristic persons, that carry out any activities related to, inter alia, press, media, websites excluding, inter alia, personal websites, tools and accounts unless otherwise is stipulated by the Media Law. The scope of the Media Law covers mainly the following:

  • Practicing press in Egypt;
  • Ownership and incorporation of media entities in Egypt;
  • Importation of publications to Egypt;
  • Operation of non-Egyptian press in Egypt;
  • Operation of marketing, advertising and press websites in Egypt;
  • Operation of non-Egyptian media and websites in Egypt;
  • Operation of Fiber Satellite Distribution in or to Egypt;
  • Operation of Broadcast Relay Stations in or to Egypt;
  • Carrying out content distribution in Egypt;
  • Operation of Encrypted Digital and Satellite Platforms in Egypt;
  • Operation and importation of Satellite News Gatherings in Egypt; and
  • Importation and manufacturing of decoders in Egypt.

No one is allowed under the Media Law to create or manage “website” in Egypt nor to operate offices or branches for “website” in Egypt unless a license is obtained from SCMR in accordance with the Licensing Regulation, otherwise a penalty shall be imposed including, inter alia, ceasing or blocking the said website.

The term “website” is defined by the Media Law as “any licensed page, link or electronic application through which a press, media or advertising content is provided, whether in text, audio, media, audio, visual, fixed, animated or multimedia format, issued in a specific name, has a specific domain name and address, and created, hosted or accessible through the Internet”.

Newspapers:

The Media Law includes a number of obligations on journalists and reports in Egypt.

The Media Law imposes also a number of foreign and even local ownership restrictions on owning newspapers in Egypt. In this regard, non-Egyptian persons are not allowed to hold any shareholding stake in newspapers allowing them to have the right to manage such newspapers. Furthermore, each Egyptian individual, family or entity is not allowed to hold ownership in more than one (1) newspaper or holding any shareholding stake in more than one (1) newspaper that grant them the right to manage more than one (1) newspaper.

Partial or entire transfer of title in newspapers or even merging newspapers is also now subject to a prior approval from SCMR.

A cash guarantee is now required for the operation of each newspaper that is owned privately or by political parties in Egypt in an amount between EGP 500 thousand to EGP 1 million subject to 10% increase every five (5) years.

Aside from the above, issuance or distribution of non-Egyptian newspapers in Egypt is now subject to a number of conditions including, inter alia, the following:

  • A notification, in a specific form, is required to be made to SCMR;
  • A copy of the Articles of Incorporation, trademark registration and the license issued abroad is required to be submitted to SCMR, which copy is required to be legalized by the Egyptian Embassy where such documents are issued;
  • Opening a local representative office and appointment of a local representative for the newspaper are required;
  • A distribution agreement with a local national newspaper is required; and
  • A system for blocking any violating content is required to be available.

 

Media:

Owners of any “media” or “website” carrying out audio, visual, electronic or digital broadcasting or re-broadcasting on the Internet are required to take a form of Sole Person or more than Sole Person Company (e.g. Limited Liability or Joint Stock Companies). The term “media” is defined under the Media Law as “any terrestrial or satellite channel, or wired, wireless or electronic radio station”.

The Media Law imposes also a number of foreign and even local ownership restrictions on owning media entities in Egypt. In this regard, non-Egyptian persons are not allowed to hold any majority shareholding stake or any other stake in any media entity allowing them to have the right to manage such media entity. Furthermore, each media entity is not allowed to own more than seven (7) television channel, one (1) general or news channel.

The Media Law imposes also a minimum required authorized capital for each media entity, unless an exception is obtained from SCMR, amounting to EGP 5 million for each news or general channel, EGP 3 million for each specialized channel, EGP 15 million for each radio channel, EGP 2.5 million for each electronic or digital channel on any “website”. At least 50% of the said minimum authorized capital is required to be deposited with any bank registered with the Central Bank of Egypt prior to commencing the broadcasting.

According to the Media Law, no one is allowed to create or operate any “media” or “website” or announce doing so prior to obtaining a license from SCMR, otherwise a penalty shall be applied including, inter alia, a fine between EGP 1 to 3 million as well as confiscation of all tools used to violate this requirement.

Aside from the above, in order for non-Egypt “media” and its “websites” or non-Egyptian “websites” providing news, media or electronic commercial advertising that are promoting business, services, products or individuals to operate in Egypt, a number of conditions must be satisfied by them including, inter alia, the following:

  • A license from SCMR is required;
  • A license request, in a specific form, is required to be made to SCMR;
  • A copy of the Articles of Incorporation, trademark registration and the license issued abroad is required to be submitted to SCMR, which copy is required to be legalized by the Egyptian Embassy where such documents are issued;
  • Opening a local representative office and appointment of a local representative for the newspaper are required;
  • A distribution agreement with a local national newspaper is required; 
  • A system for blocking any violating content is required to be available; and
  • The payment of the following fees (as applicable):
Fee Type of Media
EGP 1 million general and news media
EGP 500 thousand specialized media
EGP 100 thousand general website
EGP 3 million social networking or promoting individual’s websites

audio, video and/or text service on demand websites

goods, products and services marketing websites

EGP 100 thousand any other website

 

Imported publications to Egypt:

No one is allowed by the Media Law to import to Egypt more than one (1) copy of any imported publication unless an approval is obtained from SCMR.

Fiber Satellite Distribution:

No one is allowed to carry out activity related to fiber satellite distribution unless a license is obtained from SCMR. This license may not be granted unless a number of conditions is obtained including, inter alia, the following:

  • An approval from the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (“NTRA”) is required;
  • A company shall be incorporated in the form of Sole Person or more than Sole Person Company (e.g. Limited Liability or Joint Stock Companies) with a minimum required authorized capital of EGP 5 million; and
  • Payment of a licensing fee of EGP 200 thousand.

The term of each license if five (5) years renewable upon a request to be sent to SCMR at least six (6) months prior to the end of such five (5) years.

Broadcast Relay Stations in or to Egypt:

No one is allowed by the Media Law to carry out activity related to Broadcast Relay Stations in Egypt unless a license is obtained from SCMR. This license may not be granted unless a number of conditions is obtained including, inter alia, the following:

  • An approval from NTRA is required;
  • A company shall be incorporated in the form of Sole Person or more than Sole Person Company (e.g. Limited Liability or Joint Stock Companies) with a minimum required authorized capital of EGP 5 million; and
  • Payment of a licensing fee of EGP 150 thousand.

The term of each license if five (5) years renewable upon a request to be sent to SCMR at least six (6) months prior to the end of such five (5) years.

Content Distribution:

No one is allowed by the Media Law to carry out activity related to content distribution in Egypt unless a license is obtained from SCMR. This license may not be granted unless a number of conditions is obtained including, inter alia, the following:

  • An approval from NTRA is required;
  • A company shall be incorporated in the form of Sole Person or more than Sole Person Company (e.g. Limited Liability or Joint Stock Companies) with a minimum required authorized capital of EGP 50 million; and
  • Payment of a licensing fee of EGP 500 thousand.

The term of each license if five (5) years renewable upon a request to be sent to SCMR at least six (6) months prior to the end of such five (5) years.

Encrypted Digital and Satellite Platforms:

No one is allowed by the Media Law to carry out activity related to encrypted digital or satellite platforms in Egypt except for the State-owned companies.

Importation of Decoders and/or Satellite News Gathering Devices:

No one is allowed by the Media Law to import any satellite news gathering devices to Egypt including, inter alia, SNG and/or Live View unless an approval is obtained from SCMR.

The same restriction is applied for importing, manufacturing, assembling, selling, renting or marketing decoders in Egypt.

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