The Media… State censorship bodies tighten control
The Supreme Council for the Regulation of Media is witnessing a growing role in monitoring the media compared to 2017, the year in which a decision was issued in the second quarter to form the Council. AFTEdocumented 43 violations by the Council, representing 42% of the violations during 2018, compared to 4 cases during 8 months in 2017, which may indicate the key role for which the Council was established, which is the full control of the media field.
One of the most prominent decisions of the Council this year was the suspension of the broadcast of the “LTC” channel on December 8 because of what the Council’s statement referred to as violations that misuse the media and exploit the freedoms granted to media professionals to commit media crimes in a blatant manner, an insult to the profession and disregard for laws and the constitution and an insult to the audience. The statement added that the channel violated the standards and codes issued by the Council and has received several warnings concerning incidents that happened in its programs. The statement added that the council had given the channel time to normalize its situation without response.
The Council also imposed a gag order on 4 July 2018 in the case of the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357 until the end of the Ministerial Committee examined its position. The Council called on all parties to stop writing on the subject, to stop broadcasting the audio and video programs that deal with this subject, and to deal with any new information to be presented to the judicial authorities or the Commission of Inquiry or publication through the Council. The Council reversed this decision after the Attorney General issued a decision clarifying that the decision of the Council to stop publication is illegal , that a gag order does not fall within its mandate. This was followed by a call of the President of the Supreme Council of Media Regulation to investigate the violation of the law by issuing this decision.
The Council’s decisions in 2018 ranged from the suspension of programs and broadcasters, to referral of journalists or broadcasters for investigation by their unions.
AlMasryAlYoum… An interrogation because of a headline
“The state is mobilizing citizens for the last days of the elections.” This was the headline of Al Masry Al Youm newspaper on March 29. The newspaper was subjected to a large media attack, which was accompanied by a communication submitted by the National Elections Commission that the newspaper is accusing the state of mobilizing voters to vote, which casts doubt on the entire electoral process.
Following the communication, the Supreme Council of Media Organization referred editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, at the time, Mohamed Sayed Saleh, and editor of the news of the presidential candidate, Musa Mustafa Musa, casting his vote in the elections of 2108, on the website of the newspaper, to an investigation committee at the Syndicate of Journalists upon request of the National Electoral Commission. The Supreme Council for Media Regulation decided to fine Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper 150 thousand pounds and that the newspaper submit an apology to the National Elections Commission in the same place and the same area of the newspaper.
On March 29, Al-Masry published an explanation of the headline entitled “Al-Masry Al-Youm: The Positive Mobilization”, in which it confirmed the positive nature of that mobilization. It also sent a message to the then-presidential candidate, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, declaring its support for him and the state, in what it described as a misunderstanding of the headline, which some used to harm the newspaper.
On the 4th of April the board of the newspaper terminated the work of the editor in chief, to remain a main contributor to the newspaper and maintain his current salary, according to the decision, which did not mention any reason for the dismissal, although it is assumed to be a result of pressure upon the publication of the unwelcome headline.
The matter did not stop at that. On the 12th of April state security prosecution summoned the ditor in chief and 7 newspaper correspondents in Qalubeya, Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil, Mansoura, Ghada Abdel Hafez, Menufeya, Hend Ibrahim, Kafr Elsheikh Magdai Abdel Salam, Beheira, Hamdi Qassem, Damietta, Emad El Shazli, and Gharbeya Mohamed Fayed upon a complaint by the national election commission, where it accused them of publishing false news that may harm public interest, against the background of the newspaper’s coverage of the elections. The prosecution decided to release the editor in chief with a 10-thousand-pound bail and the release of the other journalists, guaranteed by their residence in state security case no. 599/2018, after the journalists had submitted to the prosecution copies of the correspondents with their sources from which they derived their news. The prosecution later decided to close the case.
The decisions of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation were not the only ones regarding violations in 2018, where journalists were banned from entering Egyptian territory, and journalists were detained at the airport and later arrested. On November 5, Cairo airport security authorities banned a delegation of Iraqi journalists who participated in the Cairo Media festival from entering Egyptian territory after their detention without giving any reasons and then deporting them later. On May 25, airport security authorities prevented foreign journalist Nini Obini from entering Egyptian territory after being detained and interrogated at the airport about the reason for her arrival in Egypt and some articles she published during her previous period in Egypt before, according to Obini’s post on Facebook and its translation into Arabic by Mada Masr.
The Times published a report on the deportation of its correspondent in Cairo, Bell Trew, after being stopped by the Egyptian authorities upon conducting an interview with a relative of a man who died on board a boat destined for Europe. The Times added that diplomatic sources told her that Trew had become an unwelcome person by the Egyptian authorities, which forced her to leave for London on 21 February last, without giving by the authorities any reasons for this action. The Times published an article in which Trew said that five men in civilian clothes stopped her while conducting an interview and then took her to an unnamed police station. In the article, Trew said she was interrogated for more than seven hours and threatened to be referred to a military trial.
In her article, Bell said that she was preparing a report on the boat and revealed that one of the cafe’s visitors with whom she conducted the interview told her that security was investigating another boat that questioned the involvement of the Egyptian authorities in its sinking near Rasheed Beach in 2016.
On August 16, Cairo airport security authorities apprehended a photojournalist in Al Watan newspaper, Zeinab Abu Aouna while traveling to the Lebanese capital Beirut to attend a training workshop. Abu Aouna faces charges of joining a terrorist group and publishing false news, in state security case no.441 of 2018.
On November 30, security authorities at the airport, detained Mada Masr journalist, Rana Mamdouh upon her return from the Jordanian capital of Amman after her participation in a conference organized by the ARIJ Foundation for Investigative Journalism. National Security at the airport interrogated the journalist and withdrew her passport and informed her that she was on the search checklists. Mamdouh said in a statement to Mada Masr that she had been held on her way to Jordan, her luggage was returned and re-inspected. This lasted for an hour and a half, during which the plane had taken off and she was not allowed to travel. “After the search, a brigadier told me that any time I wanted to travel I had to be at the airport at least three hours before the flight and to go to the officer’s office and tell him that I am on the search list”, Rana said. Rana added;
“I went back to the airport before the flight time and the procedures were more difficult and more complicated, where I was subjected to the same procedures and the search began this time for a paper or notebook; the customs officer looking for scraps of paper and read them. Rana says that the interrogation was focused on her work and topics she writes about and the reasons for travel to Jordan, what is the ARIJ conference and who finances it and how they choose journalists. “
The national security officer asked Rana to go to the National Security Office in Abbasiya to retrieve her passport and find out why she was placed on the search lists.
The journalist, member of the Syndicate of Journalists, submitted an official memorandum to the Journalists Syndicate and the members of the Syndicate Council regarding the series of violations committed during her travel, which included the seizure of her passport, the interrogation at the airport without reasons and the confiscation of her own notes.
On another level, on September 11, 2018, the Judicial Committee for the management of Muslim Brotherhood funds issued a decision to seize Al-Masryoun newspaper and its website, without giving reasons for that decision.
It is noteworthy that a force of members of the Committee to manage the funds of the group accompanied by a strong police force, raided the headquarters of the newspaper Al-Masrioun, on 24 September 2018, took custody of the headquarters and its contents and delegated its management to Akhbar Alyoum newspaper. The website of Al-Masryoun had been blocked in the website blocking campaign, which is being carried out by an unknown government agency.
At the level of disciplinary measures taken by media institutions towards their journalists, Al-Masry Al-Youm decided to dismiss journalist Hadeer Farghaly from her work at the institution on the basis of a complaint from her manager accusing her of being absent without the knowledge of the administration with subsequent harm to the work, according to her testimony to AFTE. Farghali added that she did not know anything about these complaints and that she was not investigated to prove or deny the allegation. Once she learned of the decision, she filed grievances and complaints against her direct manager, in which she recounts the true facts of her absence from work. However, the Human Resources Department did not investigate, and issued a decision of her dismissal on 28 August 2018.
AFTE also documented the prevention of a journalist from performing her work in Port Said, where, Naiera Elgabry, correspondent of Al-Fajr in Port Said was prevented from entering the Egyptian club and covering its news. This came after her publishing a report addressing the non-payment of dues by the club to its team players and their reluctance to attend the training after receiving checks without a bank balance. Al-Gabri said;
“After the publication of the report I received threatening calls from a member of the Board of Directors of the Egyptian club, and the Board of Directors issued a decision to prevent me from entering the club or any of its branches, and prevented me from covering the news of the club and its different teams”.
Al-Gabri was not the only journalist who was prevented from entering the club. The board of directors of the Egyptian club issued a decision to ban the entry of Al Youm Al Sabe’e correspondent in Port Said, Ahmed Wadih, also without giving reasons. The journalist told AFTE that the reason is his writing about the administrative failure of the board and iyts interference in the work of the technical director of the Egyptian club, which negatively affected the level of the ball team in all competitions. Wagih added that his appearance in an episode on Al-Ahdat channel and the criticism of the Council on television had a significant impact on the decision. Wagih said:
“The council did not only stop me from entering the club, but issued a decision to all employees of the club and players not to deal with me, and ordered a fine of 10,000 pounds for any player who makes statements to me.”
In a separate context, the investigations of the artistic works raided the headquarters of the Masr Elarabeya site of Egypt, one of the blocked sites, and arrested Adel Sabri, the chief editor of the site, two days after the decision of the Supreme Media Council on April 1, 2018. the site was fined 50,000 pounds due to a complaint filed by the National Elections Commission (NEC) because of the publication of a report entitled “The New York Times: The Egyptians Are Scouting for Elections for $ 3”. The prosecutor of Dokki ordered the detention of Adel Sabri, on the basis of case no. 4861 for the year 2018 Dokki misdemeanours, in which he was accused of publishing false news, incitement to disrupt the provisions of the constitution, joining a banned group and incitement to demonstrate.
Sabri was released on this case but was not set free since he was summoned for questioning under State Security Case 441 for the year 2018 on charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news. Sabri remains in custody until the time of writing this report.
On the other hand, the State Information Service, the official authority for granting work permits to foreign journalists and media, whether through official statements objecting to the content of foreign media reports, or through the campaign and internal propaganda led by the Chairman of the Commission, Diaa Rashwan who continuouslyappears on Satellite channels to denounce foreign media. He even took part in a television program entitled “Why is Foreign Media Targeting Egypt?” On 12 January 2018. The appearance of the head of the Information Service is accompanied by the feeding of xenophobia in Egypt, portraying them as part of a conspiracy against the stability of the state, and sometimes accusations made by program providers in channels in favor of the current authority amount accusing foreign journalists of supporting terrorism.
The State Information Service issued several statements during the first quarter of 2018, in which it criticized foreign media for deliberately publishing false information and making professional mistakes. The first was on January 7, 2018, in a statement against the New York Times, and a statement against the BBC on February 24, 2018, criticizing a BBC report that contained a series of interviews with victims and their relatives who were tortured and subjected to enforced disappearances. This is not the first time that the Information Service has accused BBC of falsifying facts and spreading false information. This happened last year in 2017 against the background of the oasis incident.
The head of the Information Service demanded a boycott of “the BBC” by officials until the station apologizes for what was published, against the background of a report published by the English network dealing with the issues of enforced disappearance and torture in Egypt. Therefore, the Egyptian authorities appear to be trying to send threats and harassment to the foreign media, the content of which is not under the control of Egyptian security unlike the local media. Large purchases of television channels and newspapers have taken place in Egypt, in addition to formation of new companies with suspicions of links to security agencies, and this led to the control by the current authority of the Egyptian media, in an unprecedented manner.
The press attack was joined by other press organizations. Hatem Zakaria, secretary-general of the Journalists Syndicate and a member of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, said in an interview about the Egyptian authority’s crisis with the BBC that he would send letters to the channel’s office, and may summon the head of the office of interrogation. Zakaria explained that “the blocking of the site may be a solution to deal with such crises,” since Egyptian authorities are upset with what he described as the “false news” broadcast by the radio about the Egyptian state. He said that it affects its reputation and its image in front of the outside community, considering the approaching presidential elections and the “Egypt’s war against terrorists in North Sinai.”
In the same context, Hussein Zein, head of the National Information Agency, issued a decision to suspend any media cooperation with the “Pepsi” until further notice. The suspension includes all types of media cooperation protocols or agreements.
On the other hand, on February 28, 2018, the Attorney General issued a decree instructing public lawyers and heads of prosecution to continue monitoring the various media and social networking sites to control the news, statements and false rumors that would harm the public interest of the state. He requested the same regarding media and social media, making sure the respective prosecutions are informed.
On March 12, 2018, the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced phone numbers through which citizens in all governorates could inform the prosecution of news and statements that harm the interests of the state.
The decision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office came during the period of the presidential elections, and in parallel with several statements by El Sisi, who threatened the so-called “forces of evil” (the same expression used by the Public Prosecution in its statement). He considered that freedom of opinion does not include dealing with security institutions in the media and culture, which he considered to be an abuse.
The decision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (following the means of social communication to control the news, statements and false rumors) is problematic, including the lack of clarity of terminology and the lack of connection to the law, as it is supposed to be issued by a judicial body. The decision and the subsequent availability of prosecution contact numbers make every expression a possible crime. Also, the prosecution as an investigative body, exceeded its legally defined role, so that it acts as a seizure and investigation body. The decision is likely to be the beginning of a legalization of censorship of social media users and the scrutiny of their opinions by both parties and citizens. The decision serves as a state of inquisition searching citizens’ ideas and consciences, especially those who criticize the current authority.
Creativity… The state targets the margins
During the year 2018, AFTEdocumented 23 incidents involving 43 violations ranging from preventive detention to prison sentences, blocking of the public performances, and preventing entry or deportation of creative artists. The highest number of violations was led by the judiciary, which was responsible for 17 violations, followed by government institutions represented by the Supreme Council of Media Regulation and the Control of Artistic Works (9 violations), and the military judicial bodies and the security forces were accused of committing seven violations.
He was presented to the high state security prosecution which ordered his preventive detention pending state security case no. 621/2018, accusing him of dissemination of false news and joining an illegal group. Abu Zeid, former correspondent for Ala Fahita remains in remand detention. On the 4th of September the ministry of interior published on its official facebook page a statement by the Cairo directorate where it announced the arrest of 8 individuals who were filming a video clip in violation of the law without permit. The statement claimed they were on drugs and dealing in them, propagating them in the internet.” The statement added that the security sector has put together a joint research team with the Cairo criminal investigation who collected information and identified the above mentioned individuals. The prosecution accused them of shooting a video clip, showing a scene of being arrested for dealing in drugs in Cairo, with the aim of getting famous without prior permissions from security bodies, in addition to possession of firearms and white weapons. The investigative magistrate in Dar El Salam court of misdemeanour decided to keep them in detention pending investigations
The persecution of creative artists was not limited to the civil judiciary. 2018 witnesses the escalation of the rate of referring artists to military judiciary, which convicted defendants in two cases. The first is the famous Shooting Club case where all 6 defendants received a suspended 6 months’ prison sentence on the 25 July. The second was the case of poet Galal El Beheiry and his unpublished poetry collection, where the military court decided on 31 July to sentence him and the owner of the publishing house to three years and a fine of 10 thousand pounds.
to prosecute the creators, but the year witnessed the escalation of the trial of two creators before the military judiciary, the military court sentenced the conviction in two facts, the first is the famous case of “play fishing club”, which issued a decision against all six defendants with a two-month suspended sentence On July 25, in the case of the unnamed poet Jalal al-Beheiri and his unpublished case, the military court decided on July 31 to imprison him and the owner of the publishing houses for three years and fined them 10,000 pounds.
The shooting club theatre… some arts upset the president
“Do not permit these insults. I someone insults the army or the police this is something harmful to all Egyptian.. this is no longer freedom of opinion” thus El Sisi addressed the media and state institutions to drive them to challenge any insult to the army or the police, using the law, because this would otherwise by “High Treason”.
The occasion was a speech by the president in Matrouh governorate on the 1st of March 2018. On the same day lawyer Samir Sabry filed three urgent complaints with the public prosecutor, the high state security prosecution and the military prosecutor against a poetry collection by Galal el Beheiry titled “The best women on earth” and a song by artist Ramy Essam titled “Balaha” and a play titled “Soliman Khater” written and directed by Ahmed El Garhi for their insult of the president and the armed forces. The military court issued a sentence in two of the complaints.
On the 31st of July, in military case no. 4/2018, the military prosecutor ordered the imprisonment of poet Galal Elbeheiry and the owner of the publishing house that released the poetry collection for 3 years and a fine of 10 thousand pounds each. As for the case known in the media as the “shooting club play” the crew was sentenced to a suspended two years in military case no. 12/2018.
The play was planned to be shown for three days, but the last performance was cancelled after some complaints by club members who considered it offensive to the armed forces escalated. In a television interview with Ahmed Moussa, Ahmed al-Garhi, the director of the play, denied his intention to abuse the army, and confirmed that some sections of the play were cut and were used out of context to appear as an insult. The play was shown two years ago at the Culture Palace of Anfushi in Alexandria at a festival of the Ministry of Culture.
A few days after Al-Garhi’s intervention, on March 1, he was arrested and Walid Atef, the author, along with four other participants in the play. They were accused of publishing false news and wearing military uniforms without permission. The team was put on trial for a period of time before being referred to the court, which sentenced them to two suspended years.
The Supreme Council for Media Regulation continued its interference in everything on the screens. The Council decided to suspend the SNL program in Arabic. According to a statement posted on the official website of the Council on February 11, the decision was taken because the program “used words, phrases and sexual references that are not appropriate for viewers and violating ethical and professional standards.”
The censorship authority on artistic works refused to give a permit to the movie “The unknown sweet potato vendor”, which was due to be shown within the activities of the ZawyaShort Film Festival. Zawya’s official page of the Cinema angle carried a statement saying “We apologize for not showing the film “The unknown sweet potato vendor today within the schedule of the short film festival because it didn’t receive a permit from the censorship authority, but it still within the competition and the chosen films and is qualified to win any of the awards.”The censorship authority had denied film maker Ruchdie Ahmed the permit to show his film in the festival.
One of the most prominent features of the year, was the prevention and stop of theatrical performances on the theatres of public universities. AFTE documented the suspension of 4 plays in different universities, some for political reasons, some for religious reasons, and sometimes without giving any reasons.
One day before the performance of the play “Mirath al-Rih”, and with the final preparations for the Alexandria College of Science Theatre team before participating in the festival held at the university each year, the theatre team learned that their show had been cancelled because it “arouses religious feelings and sectarian strife” according to a student, who preferred to withhold his name has been told by the Faculty of Science deputy dean.After the theatre team got all the necessary approvals and signatures, the management of the college and the Dean refused the performance of the play on 22 April 2018 because it contains some sentences about the Christian religion. Despite promises received by the team, still their work was banned from public performance.
Also, the play titled “they are playing music” by the theatre group of the faculty of agriculture in Saba Basha in Alexandria, was cancelled because of the intransigence of some individuals from the college administration, and despite obtaining all the necessary permits from the youth care department. Still their show was cancelled without giving reasons. In the Faculty of Specific Education at Tanta University, the play “The Wall” was also cancelled despite the approval of the text by the administration of the college. Days before the play was shown, the College decided to withdraw the approval because the play includes political content related to the Palestinian cause.
Egyptian security refused to grant a visa to the Syrian film team “The Day I Lost My Shadow”, which was to be shown at the second session of the El Gouna Festival. Security forces deported Ali Suleiman on September 19 from Hurghada airport after he arrived in Egypt to participate as a jury for long feature films in the same festival. Suleiman posted on his personal Facebook page:
“Unfortunately, the officer in charge at the airport dealt with me inhumanly and I was deported on the same plane on which I arrived from Istanbul without giving me the right to ask why I was prevented from entering my beloved Egypt.”
On November 8, while the singer Hamo Bika and his band were preparing for a concert on a beach, Hani Shaker, the head of the musical professions union, filed a complaint No. 13812 of the year 2018 at the Dekheila police station against Hamo Beka, accusing him of singing without a license and tarnishing public taste. According to the complaint, a force from the Alexandria Security Directorate cancelled the ceremony. On December 5, the Syndicate of Musicians published a statement banning another concert that was due to take place in Ismailia because Bika was not a union member and also “in order to preserve the public taste.”
On the other hand, what characterizes this year in relation to the freedom of creativity is the tendency of the authority to suppress the marginal and remote areas of the center, as well as areas of limited financial production through the creation of new committees and supervisory bodies. In March 2018, the Ministry of Culture decided to establish branches for the central on artistic works in 7 new governorates in the palaces of culture to control regions away from the center. Since the issuance of the decree on the establishment of branches for the control of works of art, in March 2018, the Ministry has not yet officially announced any details or mechanisms for the implementation of the decision, and did not publish it in the Official Gazette. The Ministry’s lack of information on these decisions, which directly affect the work of creators, is in line with the State’s policy of monopolizing information, which makes it impossible for us to understand the consequences of the decision in detail.
However, Al Youm Al Sabe’e newspaper, close to the current authority, after communicating with specialists within the Ministry of Culture, published a report, citing sources on the terms of reference of the work of branches, and mechanisms of work within the new branches of censorship. According to the report, the censorship will have the jurisdiction to organize films, songs, plays, monologues, CDs and audio tapes according to the law. The report added that the culture palaces in the seven provinces announced by the Minister of Culture, will allocate special offices to control works, and that Cairo employees may be delegated to those offices or use some of the staff of the cultural palaces to carry out the work. It said the ministerial decision came to facilitate the work of censorship in the governments instead of the exclusive dependent on the central office in Cairo.
The state also tightened its grip on amateur theatres, narrowed cultural palaces in the governorates, and required any party to organize a ceremony to be a company with a minimum capital of half a million pounds, according to the permanent committee formed by a decree by the prime minister to manage festivals and public performances.
On August 31, 2018, a security force of 4 members of the Civil Protection Forces stormed the theatre of the Beni Suef Cultural Palace, claiming that usual inspection of requirements of security and safety precautions was carried out. The preparations for the carnival of Arabic music and singing were also stopped, which was scheduled for the evening of the same day.
The testimonies obtained by AFTE confirm that the Civil Protection Force (CFP) refused to reveal its identity to the staff at the Culture Palace. The director of the Beni Suef Culture Palace was also held at the Civil Protection headquarters. The Civil Protection Force also conducted a criminal investigation of a bearded worker claiming he was a member of a “terrorist” group. The force also pressed the director of the Beni Suef Cultural Palace to sign a statement that the Beni Suef Palace was not safe to carry out any of its activities or receive visitors. All despite the fact that the palace administration had obtained all necessary permits before.
In the same context, security forces stopped the first festival of Sawasia for short films and documentaries in Suez, one hour before the start of the festival. A security force entered the Cinema Renaissance, and filed a complaint official informing the cinema to prevent the screening of any films on its screens and not to host the festival, again without mentioning the reasons for the ban. The festival management decided to transfer the event to one of the wedding halls in Suez. Security forces intervened again, cutting off the electricity from the hall in conjunction with the opening speech of the festival, which was delivered by MP Abdul Hamid Kamal. The MP completed his speech and announced the conclusion of the festival activities. The committee handed the prizes to the winning films using flashlights of mobile phones.
Following the cancellation of the festival, the official page of the festival “Sawasia” issued a statement confirming that the festival received the necessary security approvals and permits, which included the statement of the Central Authority for the Supervision of Artistic Works for each film submitted to the competition, where the censorship of works of art allowed the screening of seventeen films,while excluding one film. The statement stressed the coordination from the beginning with Dr. Inas Abdel Dayem, Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Supreme Committee to organize festivals and celebrations.
Stopping the activities of Sawasiya Film Festival is the second implementation of the decision of the Prime Minister to form a permanent high committee to organize the concerts and festivals which we will address later. While the first case was the ban of the festival “Oscar Egypt for feature and short films ” after the release of a report from the Department of censorship of works of art against the festival organizers to hold periodic film festivals without a license from the Supreme Committee for festivals.
The official gazette had on 11 July 2018 published a decision by the prime minister no. 1238/2018 concerning the organization of festivals or celebrations. The decision included new restrictions on the freedom of artists.
The mandate of the committee exposes its role in censorship of creativity. It is not an administrative committee that only coordinates procedures. Article 4 of the prime minister decree outlines the mandate of the committee, including review of requests for the organization of festivals and celebrations, monitoring their implementation and evaluation and submitting periodic reports concerning each event including recommendations to the minister of culture.
The decision of the Prime Minister prohibits the organization or establishment of any festivals or celebrations, except after the organizers have obtained a license from a committee headed by the Minister of Culture. It includes at least 15 members representing various ministries and parties, namely foreign affairs, interior, finance, tourism and archaeology, civil aviation, youth and the representatives of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, as well as the presidents of the three technical unions (the Syndicate of Music Professions, the Syndicate of Cinematic Professions, the Syndicate of Representative Professions) and the heads of literary unions.
The decision sets forth conditions relating to the content presented at the celebration or festival, as well as the requirements of the legal procedures governing the application for the license. The decision contains a general condition that the applicant for the license is a body established in accordance with the Egyptian laws, has the necessary licenses to carry out its activity. This means that individuals who are not represented by legal entities are not entitled to apply for a license to hold festivals or celebrations. In addition to this general condition, the decision includes two further conditions; the first of which concerns NGOs, where it stipulated that the civil society should have a tangible activity to serve the community in the field of specialization of the festival to be licensed.
This provision allows the Supreme Committee of Festivals to refuse to grant licenses to members who do not engage in continuous activities in the field of the festival they intend to organize. The second controller concerns companies, which stipulated that the capital of the company organizing the festival or the celebration should be no less than 500 thousand pounds. The decision omitted the extreme variation in the quality and costs of festival organization, equating decision between different forms of arts and cultural activities, without regard to the actual cost of festivals aimed at a small audience or based on low-cost activities.
On the other hand, the role of the Drama Committee, formed by the Higher Media Council, has emerged over the course of 2018, when wide powers exercised restraint on television drama especially during the month of Ramadan. In addition to the moral statements of its members, the drama committee published several reports – from four other committees – which monitored the irregularities of the television drama. The committee also imposed fines on the violators and demanded that the scenes be deleted.
The Supreme Media Council faced a crisis after the drama committee submitted its resignation last June. The resignation of the committee came as an objection to the non-implementation of the sanctions it had requested on the violating acts in Ramadan. Despite the Council’s acceptance of the resignation of the committee and announcing a new formation early last July, the completion of the task was not possible sine all those nominated refused membership because of the anger raised by the Mohammed Fadel Committee and its practices against creative artists.