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Egypt tightens censorship on soap operas

A theatre in Egypt, 16 December 2019 [oregonkat/Flickr]
A theatre in Egypt, 16 December 2019 [oregonkat/Flickr]

Egypt's Supreme Media Council has expressed its "deep dissatisfaction" with a Reuters report which details a new level of censorship over the news and entertainment industries.

The crackdown far outweighs censorship under the Mubarak regime, which only went after articles which named intelligence or military officers.

A new regulatory agency is overseeing that soap operas contain no sex scenes, blasphemy or politics and that police and authority figures are held in a positive light.

An anonymous director was told that if there was a police shootout in one of his dramas the police mustn't be killed as this would be bad for the morale of the forces.

Another was told officers had to be painted in a positive light, including not showing them to be cheating on their wives.

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The regime has withheld filming permits and created a list of banned topics that soap operas must not touch upon that programme makers have to agree to.

Two Whatsapp groups created by the government instruct media what to report on and censors have been placed at TV stations to monitor what is being broadcast.

Since 2017 the United Group for Media Services, which was set up by the state, has taken control of news outlets, TV production companies and outlets and pushed out private production companies.

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The group has taken over at least six newspapers and news sites, four TV networks, four radio stations and several theatres and cinemas.

Two of the United Group's board members have links to the General Intelligence.

Freedom of press in Egypt - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Freedom of press in Egypt – Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

The intelligence service has such control over the media they are known as "Egypt's editors in chief".

According to the Reuters' report, in the current environment anchors live day to day fearing arrest whilst programme makers say shows "have become bland like an insipid soup".

In 2017 President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi established the Supreme Council for Media Regulation to oversee the news and entertainment sectors in the country.

Over 500 websites have been blocked in the country and several journalists have been imprisoned.

READ: Egypt human rights council praises prison days after inmate dies

Reuters viewed messages contained within the two Whatsapp groups which have been formed to relay instructions to news organisations.

After 20 people were killed in an explosion outside a hospital in April an intelligence official instructed: "I don't want expansion of the coverage of the cancer centre incident… limited coverage."

After the whistleblower Mohamed Ali revealed the extent of corruption among Sisi's inner circle the message read: "Please don't publish news reports about Mohammed Ali."

Editors at TV network DMC said how they need a green light from plain clothes police officers at the studio before they broadcast programmes and that an intelligence officer sometimes sat in the control room.

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