Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved the Law of the National Media Commission on Friday, a new media regulator to be chosen by him with power to control all mass media in the country, local media have reported.
Based on the new law, which was passed by parliament two and half a years ago, it is Al-Sisi who chooses the chairman and members of the new body, which has the power to fine or suspend publications and broadcasters as well as approve or revoke licences for foreign media.
Since it was announced, the law has been subject to severe criticism by mass media and rights groups. They insist that it undermines what little media freedom there is in Egypt, a country with one of the worst records in the world for jailing journalists and suppressing mass media.
Last month, eight rights groups in Egypt condemned the laws which have been approved by parliament regarding media work, because they restrict media freedom. The law "executes the media profession," they insist.
"The law comes in the context of a wider crackdown on the press in recent years," explained Mada, a media monitoring group, "with the Egyptian authorities harassing and imprisoning journalists, blocking access to hundreds of websites, silencing opposition voices and taking direct ownership of private media outlets." Mada added that the evolution of the controversial laws over the past two and a half years sheds some light on how the authorities have worked to grant themselves greater jurisdiction to assert control over the media and to clamp down on overall freedom of expression in Egypt.