The legal enabling environment for independent media in Egypt and Tunisia

Middle East

This report discusses discuss the current regulatory environment and the windows of opportunity for democratic reform in the media sector in Egypt and Tunisia.

The world has been riveted by events occurring throughout the Middle East and North Africa that have come to be known collectively as the “Arab Spring.” Popular protests have toppled dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, creating opportunities for transitions to genuine democracy. The window of opportunity to reform the legal regulatory environment for independent media will not be open long, and civil society activists, with the support and expertise of the international community, must take advantage of this opportunity quickly before it dissipates.

Both states still technically operate under the same legal framework as that in place during the previous regimes, but the application of those laws has changed significantly, and a number of key officials have been replaced. Still, the media laws on the books are vague at best and oppressive at worst. Reforming them poses a formidable challenge. The Tunisian situation initially looked promising with the abolition of the Ministry of Information, but nearly every media outlet remains connected to the regime of ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. In Egypt, media law is comprehensively out of line with international standards. Governmental authority is so invasive that virtually every law pertaining to media must be amended or discarded.

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