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Rights Group: Egypt Exerts Growing Control Over Local Media

Journalists walk past a poster showing jailed Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, known by his nickname Shawkan at the press syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 12, 2015. He's been locked up without any charges for covering the Rabaa massacre in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013.

Egypt's privately-owned media are increasingly dominated by businessmen linked to the government and its intelligence agencies, a rights group said this week.

Reporters Without Borders, known by the French acronym RSF, said in a Tuesday report that "the regime's domination of the media continues to grow and is even affecting pro-government media."

Virtually all Egyptian media outlets are openly supportive of the government, which in recent months has blocked hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and human rights organizations. Authorities have set up media watchdogs to monitor journalists' work, made it a crime to report "false news," and have arrested a number of reporters.

The suppression of independent media is part of a larger crackdown on dissent launched after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013. Since then, Egypt has ranked near the bottom of press freedom indexes.

Reporters Without Borders singled out the popular ONTV network and local newspapers Youm al-Sabea and Sout al-Omma, all of which are owned by Ahmed Abu Hashima, a pro-government businessman. Shortly after he acquired the network in 2016, authorities deported Liliane Daoud, a British-Lebanese TV presenter who was critical of some government policies.

The report also referred to Al-Asema TV, owned by a former military spokesman, and Al-Hayat TV, which was reportedly purchased by an Egyptian security company.

Since May, authorities have blocked access to at least 424 websites, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an Egyptian rights group. The government has also blocked the websites of VPN services, which allow users to circumvent such bans.

Reporters Without Borders' own website has been blocked since mid-August.