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Divergent Media Transitions
Comparative Historical Media Systems of Tunisia and Egypt
Jason Muirragui 5/6/15
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction..................................................................................................................................
Contemporary significance of Tunisia and Egypt...................................................................................... 2
Research Questions.................................................................................................................................. 4
Chapter 2: Literature Review/Methods ........................................................................................................
National media systems ........................................................................................................................... 5
Authoritarian upgrading........................................................................................................................... 7
Research Approach................................................................................................................................... 8
Limitations of Analysis.............................................................................................................................. 9
Historical Research methods.................................................................................................................. 10
Chapter 3: Tunisian Historical Overview .......................................................................................................
1956-1970: State building and the media system ................................................................................. 11
1970-1987: Power consolidation and closing the media space............................................................. 14
1987-1989: The ‘medical coup’ and brief opening of media space ....................................................... 17
1990-2011: Ben Ali’s political and media crackdown............................................................................. 18
Chapter 4: Egyptian Historical Overview.......................................................................................................
1954-1970: Media censorship and mobilization .................................................................................... 22
1970-1981: The ‘Corrective Revolution’................................................................................................. 27
1981-2011: Media demobilization and post-censorship........................................................................ 31
Chapter 5: 2011- Present ...............................................................................................................................
Impact of the “Arab Spring” uprisings on Tunisian and Egyptian media ................................................... 34
Chapter 6: Analytical narratives and Findings........................................................................................... 46
Chapter 7: Conclusions and Discussion .................................................................................................... 52
Bibliography ............................................................................................................................................... 55
Chapter 1: Introduction
Contemporary significance of Tunisia and Egypt
On March 18, 2015, the worst terrorist attack in Tunisian history occurred as gunmen stormed
the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital. The intended target had been the
parliamentary building, a symbol of the country’s newly elected coalition government. As the
attackers were unable to gain access to their intended target, they turned on the nearby museum
before being killed by security forces.1
The tragedy ended with 20 foreign tourists and 4
Tunisians killed among others who were injured. International media coverage framed the attack
as an extremist effort to undermine the nascent Arab democracy, considered the sole success
story of the 2011 Arab uprisings.2
BBC subsequently reported on national demonstrations which
galvanized Tunisians in support of freedoms gained since their revolution.3
Tunisia is rarely the focus of international media attention as such attacks are historically
unusual. Not since 2002 had an attack of this magnitude targeted foreign tourists4
significantly less national and international media attention in the aftermath of September 11,
2001. During this period Tunisia functioned as one of the most autocratic regimes in the Arab
world, severely limiting political opposition and censoring national media. Freedom House had
previously ranked Tunisia with China in terms of political freedoms5
, while Reporters without
Borders described the country’s media landscape as being “under the direct control of the
Kirkpatrick, David D. "Tunisia Museum Attack Is Blow to Nation’s Democratic Shift." 18 Mar. 2015. New York
Ryan, Yasmine. "How One Country Emerged From the Arab Spring With a Democratic State." 12 Feb. 2014. The
"Tunis Bardo Museum Attack: Thousands Join Protest March." BBC News, 29 Mar. 2015.
"Explosion at Synagogue in Tunisia Kills Five." 11 Apr. 2002. Associated Press. Web.
"Tunisia: Freedom in the World 2010." Freedom House, 2010.
government or owned by those close to the (prior) president.”6
With the overthrow of the
Tunisian dictatorship on January 14, 2011, the political and media landscapes dramatically
transformed that year: political prisoners were promptly released, previously banned political
opposition legalized, consecutive free elections took place, and a new Constitution ensured press
freedom and the dissolution of official censorship. By January 2015, Freedom House ranked
Tunisia as the “first free Arab country in decades.”7
Although Tunisia was first of several Arab countries to launch uprisings that year, protests did
not gain significant international media attention (outside the Arab world) until Egypt ousted
long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011: “The dizzying success of protests in
Tunisia, one of the most heavy handed of the authoritarian Arab states, had a clear triggering
effect in Egypt and across the region.”8
During the aftermath of revolution, Egypt struggled in its
democratic transition before a military coup toppled the country’s first democratically elected
government in July 2013.
While Tunisia’s national media system opened with democratization, Egypt increasingly
cracked down on national and international press outlets. By December 2013, Egyptian
authorities imprisoned three Al-Jazeera journalists on grounds of national security.9
One of the
journalists, Australian national Peter Greste, was released in February 2015 while two of his
colleagues await re-sentencing on charges of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Webb, Edward. "Tunisia." Media in Egypt and Tunisia: From Control to Transition? New York City: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2014. 57.
Fagan, Sebastian. "Tunisia Declared Free by Freedom House." 11 Feb. 2015. Tunisia Live.
"America and Egypt After the Uprisings." Survival 53.2 (2011): 33.
Fick, Maggie. "Egypt Jails Al Jazeera Journalists, U.S. Calls Sentences 'chilling'" 23 June 2014. Reuters.
During the trials Egyptian national media refused to defend their Al-Jazeera colleagues while
largely echoing the official narratives of the Egyptian government. Political dissent and critical
media coverage are perceived as national security threats in today’s Egypt.
Although both Tunisia and Egypt currently face tremendous economic and security challenges,
their respective governments have taken alternative approaches towards their national media
systems. Recent developments pose questions as to why these North African countries
established different media systems after more than six decades of autocratic rule. What led
Tunisia to take steps towards democratization and press freedom after 2011? What factors
caused Egyptian media become less free over the same period? How do the national media
systems of these countries interact with structures of power? These questions are significant as
they contain broader implications for media systems in Arab countries.
As Tunisia and Egypt’s 2011 uprisings were observed across the Arab world, their post-
revolutionary progress has a tremendous impact on transnational media flows. This paper argues
that the best approach to questions surrounding divergent national media development lies in a
historical methods approach towards media systems. As these national systems were established
in the mid-twentieth century (Egypt in 1952 and Tunisia in 1956 respectively), this decade serves
as an appropriate starting point in analyzing media development to the present day. The research
will emphasize historical changes and continuities to formulate the best explanation for the
contemporary Tunisian and Egyptian media systems.
Chapter 2: Literature Review/Methods
Most media systems concepts and political theories regarding Tunisia and Egypt were
formulated prior to the so-called “Arab Spring”, and therefore require revision to account for
dramatic developments since 2011. Although historical studies are valuable in terms of
explaining how media systems developed under dictatorships, they don’t adequately explain the
changes in these systems with the overthrow of autocracy. This national media systems analysis
focuses primarily on historical media outlets such as television, radio, newspapers, and
magazines. Newer platforms such as satellite television and digital media have played important
roles in disseminating information outside national media systems and diffusing the historical
monopoly on information.
National Media Systems
When doing analysis of national media systems, Henrik Bastiansen cites the four global
categories of media described by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm: “Authoritarian media system,
liberal media system, socially responsible media system, and the Soviet system.”10
authoritarian model best fits the national media systems of most Arab countries (with the
exception of Lebanon) prior to 2011: “In the authoritarian system, the media support and
advance the policies of the government, which controls the media either directly or indirectly
through licensing, legal action, or perhaps financial means. The regime allows the media some
Bastiansen, Henrik G. "Media History and the Study of Media Systems." Media History 14.1 (2008): 96.
discussion of society and the machinery of government, but not of the people in power.”11
Arab authoritarian structures, William Rugh identifies four national categories:
1. Mobilization Press (Egypt under Nasser 1956-1970, Syria and Libya before 2011) which
“does not criticize the basic policies of the national government. The government’s
foreign policies are particularly unassailable, but the major lines of domestic policy, too,
are never attacked.”12
2. Loyalist Press (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Qatar) are private media systems which
“tends not to attack the basic tenets of national policy as enunciated by the regime, it
eschews criticism of the personalities at the top of the national government, and it
exhibits little real diversity of treatment or view on important issues.”13
3. Diverse Media (Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, Kuwait) are media systems that “are all
privately owned and reflect a variety a viewpoints. The diverse press is therefore
relatively free, even if individual newspapers may be strong promoters of the regime, and
because the reader has more information and opinion to choose from.”14
4. Transitional Media (Tunisia and Egypt during 2010) “is a rather complex system that
contains strong elements favoring governmental controls over the press, alongside
elements favoring some measure of freedom of expression and diversity.”15
Rugh, William A. "Arab Information Media: Function and Structure." Arab Mass Media. Westport: Praeger,
2004. 23. Print.
The historical media analysis relies on these categories as the foundation for media transition
since the 1950’s. Unlike liberal media systems in the United States and Western Europe, Arab
media systems have been historically constrained by the authoritarian power structures in which
they operate. North African media systems somewhat resemble South European media systems,
which were influenced by similar factors during the 20th century: “The Southern-European
media system emerged concurrently with the persistence of authoritarian government control
systems...the media systems of the countries in Southern Europe were shaped by decisive
historical, social, political and cultural factors.”16
Since the 1950’s, successive Tunisian and Egyptian governments utilized media (primarily
print and broadcast) as a vital tool in the maintenance of authoritarian power systems. Scholar
Edward Webb theorizes that Arab media systems “serve a core function in adaptive
authoritarianism. Holding down a population by force alone is expensive and unsustainable:
‘authoritarian governments need some support and a good deal of acquiescence to remain in
power’ (Geddes 1999, 138), and media help generate acquiescence.”17
Prior to the “Arab
Spring” uprisings, Tunisia and Egypt were considered case studies of authoritarian upgrading,
thus maintaining long-term power monopolies despite pressures for reform. According to a 2007
study by the Brookings Institutions, Arab regimes are consistently adapting strategies to maintain
power legitimacy over their populations.
Elements for authoritarian upgrading include:
1. Appropriating and containing civil societies.
2. Managing political contestation.
3. Capturing the benefits of selective economic reforms.
4. Controlling new communications technologies.
5. Diversifying international linkages. 18
As Tunisia and Egypt established their authoritarian structures, successive regimes focused on
appropriating civil societies through control of media space. This control reinforced autocrats in
managing political contestation, as opposition press could be rewarded or penalized through
legal mechanisms. Arab civil societies as a result became increasingly constrained, enabling
regimes to consolidate power and reinforce public acquiescence. Historical media systems in
Tunisia and Egypt should be viewed within the framework of upgrading authoritarian strategies,
which shifted periodically out of necessity. Although the countries share similarities in terms of
authoritarian strategies, their post-revolutionary media systems diverged due to historical and
political developments which occurred gradually over several decades.
This study is primarily a work of historical media analysis, synthesizing literatures from
historical media systems, regional studies, political histories, and contemporary journalism.
There are few primary sources on national media available from Tunisia and Egypt, whose
national archives have limited historical information on media systems. A historic overview
Heydemann, Steve. "Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World." 13 (2007): 5. The Saban Center for Middle
East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
since the 1950’s show various approaches by national governments in limiting media criticism
while projecting an illusion of widespread public support. Regimes considered control over
information to be essential in order to ensure political cohesion and national unity. Unlimited
freedom of expression through the press is perceived as detrimental to national unity, thereby
requiring top-down control through centralized authority.
Limitations of Analysis
Extensive analysis on Tunisian and Egyptian media systems is lacking due to the historic
authoritarian restrictions imposed over civil societies, including journalists and academics.
National media issues such as press freedoms tended to receive international attention from
NGO’s such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders. Although
social media has received increased attention in recent years due to its role in the 2011 uprisings,
Tunisian and Egyptian media systems remains a largely neglected topic within academic study.
The study of these media systems since 2011 is also limited due to the relatively short period of
time since changes have occurred. Both nations are in the early political stages of post-
revolutionary adjustment, with many significant developments having taken place since 2013.
Extensive academic analysis has yet to catch up with developments as researchers continue to
formulate new concepts reflecting the regional changes. This analysis is original in terms of
incorporating concepts from older literature and contributing new insight to the present media
systems. As a result the analysis will rely primarily on academic research and a variety of
secondary sources to construct a comprehensive historical narrative.
Historical Research Methods
When analyzing national media systems, Bastiansen’s study of Norwegian media provides an
effective template for historical analysis. This analytical approach emphasizes the use of
chronology in historical studies of media systems by dividing the studies into time periods; “This
kind of division into phases or periods requires not just an adequate knowledge of the relevant
material, but also the ability to identify moments in time that can be counted as watersheds-
along with the forces that have been at work to create such significant changes.”19
The historical approach works to “construct an overview of the subject under investigation, to
establish connections, to draw the proper lines, and not least to explain, in order to understand,
the events of history.”20
Historical chronology illustrates the ‘watersheds’ for each country while
providing an overview for the political conditions influencing media systems. In the analytical
section, chronology serves as a reference to provide the best explanation for why Tunisia and
Egypt’s media systems evolved so differently since 2011.
In constructing the historical overview sections, two books provided great insight into national
media history: Rugh’s Arab Mass Media (2004) and Webb’s Media in Egypt and Tunisia (2014).
The following sections utilizes these works as a foundation in constructing historical chronology
for cross-analysis. Due to the lack of primary sources going back to the 1950’s, interweaving this
chronology with other secondary sources will highlight historical patterns that continue to impact
national media systems.
Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, 1950’s
Chapter 3: Tunisian Historical Overview
1956-1970: State building and the media system
Tunisia is less familiar than Egypt as the smallest country in North Africa, wedged between
Algeria and Libya. The small country of almost 11 million people contains one of the most
educated and literate Arab populations, which greatly benefited Tunisia in the early phases of its
national development. France had occupied Tunisia from 1881 until 1956, reluctantly granting
the country’s independence as it was fighting a war against Algerian independence (1954-1962).
French cultural and political influence left a tremendous impact on Tunisian society, from its
governing system to its bilingual education and print media.21
The development of the modern
state and media system started with the country’s formal independence in March 1956. Unlike
the Egypt’s Free Officers Movement which established a junta in 1952, Tunisia’s civilian
government was led by a French educated lawyer named Habib Bourguiba. A year after
independence, Tunisia abolished its traditional monarchy and developed a political structure
concentrated in a single individual. Bourguiba became the country’s first President in 1957 and
established a Republican legal system based on French civil law.22
"Tunisia: The French Protectorate." Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown
"Facts about Tunisia." World Facts Index, 2008.
The country was effectively dominated by a cult of personality through the secular Neo-
Destour (New Constitution) party. The initial national media environment was fluid as the
country gradually adjusted to a post-colonial political environment. A relatively pluralistic media
environment took shape as the media space had opened considerably with the departure of the
French authorities. Unlike the political system in Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Bourguiba
was suspicious of Pan-Arab nationalism and kept the military relatively small23
to prevent the
possibility of an Egyptian inspired military coup. National media (specifically newspapers) were
not as tightly constrained as under Nasser’s Egypt: “The first few decades were characterized by
state ownership of all electronic broadcast media, and a mixed state and private system in the
print media, with limited diversity but some permitted margin of criticism, independent
newspapers playing the role of loyal opposition.”24
Tunisia’s initial media system fell into the
transitional model, as the President was in the early authoritarian stage of appropriating civil
With the establishment of the Tunisian Presidency, Bourguiba viewed national press as an
important component of developing the Tunisian state. The media system during these early
years moved gradually towards elements of mobilization and loyalist media systems, especially
within broadcasting media. Radio was nationalized and continued to operate under a state-run
monopoly until 2003. Terrestrial television was nationalized in the 1960’s and remains under
state control as of 2015. During the early Bourguiba period, broadcast media contained elements
of propaganda and self-censorship to emphasize national development priorities. Television
Brownlee, Jason. “Conclusion. Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance.” New York
City: Cambridge UP, 2012. 168.
broadcasting would not pose a challenge to the Tunisian power structure until the development
of Pan-Arab satellite broadcasting,25
specifically the Qatari funded Al-Jazeera Network which
was founded in 1996. Tunisian print media during this early period developed a dynamism
forged by the decades-long struggle for independence. The tradition of Tunisian political
publications had thrived prior to independence, as French authorities attempted to quash
Tunisian print publications advocating for independence. Bourguiba became initially involved in
politics through his journalistic involvement in a pro-independence publication L’Action
Tunisienne, for which he was arrested by French officials in 1931.26
From 1956 through 1970, Tunisia’s government began to exercise gradual control over
independent publications: “Bourguiba shut down many opposition newspapers run by
communists, leftists, and so on, but mostly tolerated Essabah (a private publication) as what he
termed a contestataire newspaper, a kind of loyal opposition, put certain lines… The paper was
sometimes critical and was suspended a few times, including for eight months in 1957. The
person of the ruler was the main fixed line; otherwise it was a matter of pushing to see what one
could get away with.”27
Tunisian authorities attempted to put limits on the Tunisia’s transitional
media as private publications occasionally pushed somewhat arbitrary limits. Despite occasional
shutting down of private press outlets, Tunisian authorities never attempted to nationalize the
media as occurred with Egypt in 1961. This was an important distinction that would later help
Tunisian media break away from government control in 2011. Editorial red lines for national
media coverage were somewhat ambiguous as the regime relied on self-censorship rather than
Lev, David. "How Arab Satellite Stations Show the Unrest in the Arab World." 27 Jan. 2011. Arutz Sheva.
"Bourguiba Biography." President Habib Bourguiba, 1903-2000. Official Website of President Habib Bourguiba.
legal mechanisms. Since the President did not have any serious political rivals during this period,
private press coverage remained largely uniform with the regime’s national development
priorities. In 1964, Bourguiba renamed the ruling party to Socialist Destour (Socialist
Constitution) in order to emphasize national development and modernization goals. Private
media was encouraged to reinforce state goals in the 1960’s but never moved towards Egypt’s
mobilization model of media.
Habib Bourguiba, 1970
1970-1987: Power consolidation and closing the media space
As political opposition movements developed for the first time in the early 1970’s, initial
indications for opening the Tunisian political and media systems appeared encouraging. During
this decade the Bourguiba regime moved towards consolidating power, narrowing the space for
political and media diversity. The decade saw Tunisia in a phase of authoritarian upgrading as
the ruler worked towards appropriating civil society and managing political contestation. In
1975, Bourguiba arranged for the National Assembly (controlled by his ruling party) to declare
him President for life.28
"Habib Bourguiba Obituary." 13 Apr. 2000. The Economist.
As Tunisian civil society diminished, independent media became practically defunct as the
country became a one-party system. The declaration of lifetime Presidency for life significantly
diminished the political opposition press. A Tunisian journalist in 1976 stated that “a national
Tunisian policy has been chosen [by the ruling elite] and all newspapers are supposed to
support it. They are only free to work within that framework.”29
By the late 1970’s, Tunisia had
transitioned away from a transitional to a loyalist media system described as “private but not
diverse, and supportive of the regime.”30
With a shift away from media diversity of viewpoints,
there was one important exception maintaining a check on Bourguiba’s power consolidation.
Tunisia’s most powerful labor union, Union Generale Tunisienne du Travail (UGGT) was
formed in 1946 and played an important political role in the nation’s politics. The presence of the
Union ensured that there was some media space to challenge the regime’s political and media
policies: “The 1970s were a reminder that Tunisia was unlike other Arab countries, apart from
Lebanon, with more room for dissent. For instance, UGTT’s Echaab was very critical of the
government and ruling party, even while Bourguiba himself remained a red line.”31
UGGT Labor March in Tunis
The Union posed a persistent political challenge as economic conditions diminished in the
1970’s and 1980’s: “The UGTT had an ambiguous and changing relationship with the ruling
party, quite effective under Bourguiba, although later in his rule bitterly repressed general
strikes of '78 and the bread revolt of 1984 amounted to the highest levels of confrontation and
repression against that UGTT by the State.”32
During the 1980’s, the private press experienced
periods of relative freedom or government sanctions based on the political positions of
Bourguiba’s appointees. As Bourguiba’s health deteriorated through the 1980’s, independent
press publications from the UGGT, Communists and emergent Islamists became more assertive.
The challenge of the UGGT convinced the president to hold the country’s first multi-party
parliamentary elections in 1981. In this instance, Bourguiba was utilizing authoritarian strategy
in co-opting civil society through an electoral facade. The ruling party convinced the UGGT to
run on a joint ticket in an election with token opposition. Although the joint-ticket won 94
percent of the poll, the removal of government subsidies for bread in 1984 triggered riots across
the country which split the UGGT from the government. This was the largest national revolt until
2011, marking a sharp shift towards increased authoritarianism. The state-run press media
absolved Bourguiba’s leadership by placing blame for the riots was on the Interior ministry, and
announced the reinstatement of bread subsidies.33
In 1977, Egypt had experienced similar riots
over the removal of bread subsidies which were also subsequently reinstated.
With the so-called bread riots and rise of an Islamist political challenge in the 1980’s,
Bourguiba’s mental health deteriorated as he increasingly showed signs of dementia. Prior to his
"Tunisia Report Places Blame for Bread Riots." 23 Apr. 1984. New York Times.
forced removal from office, he increasingly cracked down on the political and media activities of
the Islamist party Ennahda which had formed in 1981. The Ennahda party newspaper, Al-Fajr,
was viewed as a national security threat and its editor (future Tunisian prime minister) Hamadi
Jebali was subsequently arrested and imprisoned under Bourguiba’s successor, Zine Al-Abidene
Prime Minister Ben Ali (R) shaking hands with President Bourguiba, 1987
1987-1989: The ‘medical coup’ and brief opening of media space
On November 7, 1987, the 84-year old President was deposed from power by his Prime
Minister Ben Ali in what was described as a “medical coup.” The removal was completed under
a constitutional mechanism with Tunisian doctors attesting to Bourguiba’s inability to perform
his Presidential duties.35
After coming to power, Ben Ali declared that he would abolish lifetime
presidency and work towards increasing Tunisian political and media freedoms.
The new President allowed the state-run press to publish political opposition statements. As
with Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali came from a military background and was appointed
Prime Minister one month prior to his rise to the Presidency: “When Ben Ali replaced Bourguiba
"Journalists Imprisoned in Tunisia." Committee to Protect Journalists, 31 Dec. 1997.
Delaney, Paul. "Senile Bourguiba Described in Tunis." 9 Nov. 1987. New York Times.
as president in 1987, there was a new press code (promulgated 1988) and easing up restrictions,
and then from 1993 a limited group of permitted opposition party newspapers.”36
In 1988, Ben
Ali renamed the ruling party to the Democratic Constitutional Rally (or RCD in the French
The RCD in many ways resembled Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party
(NDP), with both political movements emphasizing secular nationalism and increased economic
privatization during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Although Ben Ali and Mubarak came from military
backgrounds, they served as civilian leaders rather than military dictators. The two leaders
followed similar strategies in building extensive police states during their decades in power,
utilizing media as tools in authoritarian reinforcement.
Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, 2009
1990-2011: Ben Ali’s political and media crackdowns
The early 1990’s saw an end to the proposed political and media openings. Starting in 1989,
Ben Ali ran unopposed in Tunisia’s first presidential election garnering 100 percent of ballots.
The new President’s police state increasingly targeted political opposition and journalists in what
turned out to be the darkest period of repression in the country’s history. The government
adjusted its media approach from indirect control to direct confrontation and suppression of
"Democratic Constitutional Rally". Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2015.
independent press; “From the early 1990s to 2010, the Tunisian press experienced "the worst
time," with the ceiling for expression lowered to its lowest limits. A number of journalists were
imprisoned in that period, and the media were kept on a tight leash by Ben Ali's advisor
In 1980, Freedom House’s Press index had ranked Tunisia as “partially
free.” By 1990, the press index had shifted to ‘not free’ which continued for the duration of Ben
Ali’s rule. In 1999, Ben Ali was classified by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the
“ten worst enemies of the press.”39
The primary political and media challenge to the government
came from the Islamist Ennahda movement, whose members had been imprisoned or exiled by
The Ben Ali regime relied on tools of intimidation to ensure self-censorship among the
national media. Unlike the ambiguous red lines under Bourguiba, the ceiling for political
coverage was low and ensured by official censorship. Critically covering the person of the
President or his inner ruling circle was a definite red line, along with national security affairs.
Within the secular dictatorship, “religion was not a red line, with the exception that one could
not write about the banned Islamic movement (Ennahda).”40
Since the Tunisian government
maintained a broadcast monopoly, private print publications received the brunt of the official
crackdown. Although freedom of the press was formally guaranteed under Article 1 of Tunisia’s
Press Code, several official constraints worked against independent newspapers: “The limited
size of the market for newspapers made them particularly vulnerable to financial inducements or
punishments, most commonly through ATCE (French acronym for Tunisian Agency for External
"Enemies of the Press: The Top 10 Worst Offenders of 1999." Committee to Protect Journalists, 1999. Web.
Communications)… But newspapers as a whole had to tread very carefully if they wish to stay in
Print publications tended to remain in safe editorial areas that never portrayed
government policies in a negative light.
By the turn of the century, Rugh classified Tunisian media under the transitional media
category. This is partially based on the privatization of broadcast media that took place in the
early 2000’s, a trend followed in Egypt during the same period. Although media saw some
limited diversification, the ownership was not necessarily diverse. Rugh’s assessment that
Tunisian media was transitional overlooks the fact that virtually all private media was controlled
by individuals close to the ruling circle. Among incentives utilized to promote positive press
coverage were good pay for public sector journalists and a government monopoly over
advertising revenue. This had the effect of weakening professional journalism standards within
political coverage, even among political dissidents: “Many journalists got accustomed to
working as if they were civil servants. Just let some avoid working in areas where they might
have to report on the presidency, writing and nonpolitical fields despite political commitments
and activist backgrounds.”42
This approach fits into a more extensive authoritarian strategy of
appropriating and containing civil society.
While private newspapers in Tunisia did not require licenses by the late 2000’s, the quality of
print journalism suffered as legal instruments were employed against journalists during the
2008-2010 period: “As in Egypt, the law gave the regime flexibility in prosecuting or threatening
journalists with imprisonment for activities related purely the publication... In its
implementation, it was arbitrary and authoritarian. In 2010 alone at least three journalists were
imprisoned for the content of their reporting.”43
Prior to the 2011 uprising, Tunisia’s media
landscape appeared relative bleak compared to its Egyptian counterpart. Reporters without
Borders reported increased media repression which included systematic violence against
journalists. Ironically, Egypt during this same period followed an opposite trajectory towards
media around the same period: “In the decade that Egypt was somewhat loosening controls on
aspects of expression, Tunisia was tightening them.”44
The Tunisian regime was in its most
intense phase of authoritarian upgrading as it struggled to fully control new communication
technologies and its potential to undermine official media narratives.
The internet first came to Tunisia in 1992 with provider service being monopolized by the
state. As most Tunisians could not afford computers, the government invested in building
internet cafes around the country called “Publinets.” It was hoped that increased access to
information technology would help Tunisia integrate into the global economy, but under strict
controls. Internet censorship was extensive with government officials monitoring online activity
and blocking websites deemed unfavorable to the government.45
Facebook had been temporarily
blocked in 200846
before complaints prompted the regime to restore access after a few days. This
popular social media site would later be utilized as an important communications tool in the
Shannon, Victoria. "Tunisia Chided over Web Censorship." 15 Nov. 2005. New York Times.
"Tunisia Censors Facebook." Balancing Act. Reporters without Borders, 1 Jan. 2008.
Madrigal, Alexis. "The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks." 24 Jan. 2011. The Atlantic.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1956
Chapter 4: Egyptian Historical Overview
1954-1970: Media Censorship and Mobilization
On July 23, 1952, a group of Egyptian military officials deposed King Farouk and formally
established the military domination of Egypt which has persisted to the present day. With the
exception of the 2012-2013 term of deposed former President Mohammed Morsi, every civilian
leader has come out of the military structure established by the Free Officers Movement.48
an initial power struggle between the Free Officers, Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged as Egypt’s
leader and left a profound impact on Egyptian media development which persists to the present
As the Free Officers took power, they moved to establish domination over the press by
establishing an official “revolutionary publishing house” name Dar al-Tahrir (Liberation
House). Establishing an official media arm was viewed by military rulers as essential to
promoting the new political system, while gaining support among the Egyptian public. The first
Kirkpatrick, David D. "Egypt’s Ruler Eyes Riskier Role: The Presidency." 27 Jan. 2014. New York Times.
"Arab Unity: Nasser's Revolution." 20 June 2008. Al Jazeera.
official print outlets were al-Tahrir (Liberation), a bi-monthly magazine “which was anti-
imperialist, leftist, revolutionary in tone, and supportive of the Ruling Command Council”50
al-Gumhuriyah (The Republic), a daily newspaper which “appealed especially to leftist
intellectuals, workers, and others who liked its tendency to stress Arab socialist ideological
issues and leftist causes.”51
While the Ruling Command Council (RCC) established media outlets to promote revolutionary
goals and ideas, it also established a one-party system under the banner of the National
Liberation Rally (NLR). By January 1953, the Council had outlawed rival political parties52
instituted official censorship against political journals. The NLR intended to consolidate control
over the political and media spheres in order to mobilize the Egyptian masses, and was largely
successful under Nasser’s leadership. Nasser rose to RCC chairman in 1954 and subsequently the
Egypt’s second President in 1956. His personal charisma won him admirers across the Arab
world as he promoted Pan-Arab nationalism.53
The 1950’s and early 1960’s saw increased
government crackdowns against independent newspapers as Nasser’s regime implemented a pre-
censorship strategy in controlling critical content. This is classic authoritarian strategy which
involves pre-empting (rather than managing) political contestation and civil society to
consolidate media into a mobilization system.
The year 1954 was a historical “watershed” in establishing official strategies to control and
Gordon, Joel. Nasser's Blessed Movement: Egypt's Free Officers and the July Revolution. New York City: Oxford
UP, 1992. 4.
Ali, Randa. "Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the Man Who Never Died." 2 Sept. 2013. Ahram Online.
sanction published dissent in Egypt. Similar strategies would be implemented almost 60 years
later as an Egyptian military coup in 2013 targeted critical media outlets in order to consolidate a
mobilization system. Part of the reason that media mobilization in Egypt has been so successful
falls back to the legacy of the 1950’s and 1960’s. During Nasser’s first year as President,
independent dailies like Al-Misri (The Egyptian) had significantly larger circulations than
official outlets like Al-Gumhuriyah. Al-Misri was the most widely circulated daily in the Arab
world during this period and was politically sympathetic to the deposed monarchy. Since
opposing political parties had been outlawed by the RCC, Al-Misri served as a de facto platform
for dissent in calling for an end to military rule and replacing it with a parliamentary system: “In
1954, it openly criticized Nasser after other newspapers had muted their opposition. Al-Misri
editors called Nasser a usurper of people’s rights, and its editorials, under the heading ‘Back to
your Barracks’ directly attacked the RCC.”54
Nasser struck back against Al-Misri and other critical publications through the revocation of
publishing licenses and the imprisonment of dissident journalists. Although the Egyptian regime
allowed private newspapers to operate along with official counterparts, it imposed legal
constraints to severely limit parameters in which journalists could operate. By 1960, Nasser was
at the peak of his popularity in the aftermath of the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 1958 union between
Egypt with Syria into the United Arab Republic. During the early 1960’s, Nasser moved to
formalize pre-censorship and nationalize private Egyptian media outlets. On May 24, 1960, the
regime instituted Egypt’s Law Number 156 which “stipulated that no newspapers could be
published without the permission of the country’s only political organization, the National Union
(later renamed the Arab Socialist Union). The law also transferred ownership of the four large
private publishing houses (Dar al-Ahram, Dar Akhbar al-Yawm, Dar al-Hilal, and Dar Rose al-
Yusif) to the National Union, which already owned Dar al-Tahrir publishing house.”55
“watershed” is one of the primary early divergences with Tunisian print media, which was never
Throughout the decade, Dar al-Tahrir increasingly controlled print media through official
ownership and exclusive appointment of editors. As the Egyptian government expanded control
over print media, print media followed a top-down mobilization model in terms of editorial
content. Law 156 was critical in diminishing Egypt’s print media culture in subsequent years.
The Nasser regime primarily targeted print media since it was perceived as the only outlet with
potential to erode crucial public support for the government. Nasser claimed that he had not
nationalized media in the manner of other sectors of the Egyptian economy, but rather
reorganized it: “The 1960 law deliberately uses the phrase ‘organization of the press” (tanzim
al-sahafah) rather than “nationalization’ (ta’mim), and the Egyptian law does not regard the
National Union or ASU (Arab Socialist Union) as an organ of the state.”56
As with Bourguiba’s media policy in Tunisia, control over broadcast media content was not a
priority due to the government monopoly through Egyptian State Broadcasting (later the
Egyptian Radio and Television Union). Egypt introduced television broadcasting in 1960,57
continues to hold an ownership monopoly over terrestrial broadcasting as of 2015. With a
"The Media in Egypt: Television Wars." 17 Dec. 2012. The Economist.
government monopoly over radio broadcasting, Nasser effectively utilized propaganda during
the 1950’s and 1960’s through his Sawt al Arab (Voice of the Arabs) media platform. Nasser’s
radio speeches became increasingly popular across the Arab world: “The Voice of the Arabs is
often remembered as an influential weapon that galvanized the Arab masses, arousing Arab
nationalist sentiments through the Arab world… [and] it marked the real beginning of media
politics in the Arab world.”58
Nasser’s political standing suffered a devastating blow with the 1967 Six-Day War, as the
Israeli military launched a surprise attack taking over the Sinai Peninsula and destroying the
majority of Egypt’s air force. The surprise attack caught Nasser’s propaganda machine off-guard
as Sawt al Arab gave false reports of Egyptian military victories: “While the Egyptian air force
lay in ruins on its runways, and Arab armies retreated on every front, The Voice of the Arabs
clung to the fantasy world it had created so painstakingly over fourteen years. It continued to
boast of great victories even after Western media had made known the scale of the disaster—
Israel rapidly took the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan
Heights—quite apparent. Its credibility would never recover.”59
In the aftermath of the Egyptian
defeat, Nasser appeared on state television to publicly offer his resignation from the Presidency.
Sawt-Al Arab radio along with other state media outlets lost public credibility and never
recovered the popularity they enjoyed prior to the war. The legacy of the ‘67 defeat was so
catastrophic that it remains a taboo topic within Egyptian media at present. Nasser remained in
Alahmed, Anas. "Voice of the Arabs Radio: Its Effects and Political Power during the Nasser Era (1953-1967)."
(2011): 3. Academia.edu.
James, Laura M. "Whose Voice? Nasser, the Arabs, and 'Sawt Al-Arab' Radio." Transnational Broadcasting
Studies. American University in Cairo and the Middle East Centre, 2006. Web.
office until his death in September 1970 and was succeeded by Vice President Anwar Sadat.
Anwar Sadat, 1970
1970-1981: The ‘Corrective Revolution’
Although Anwar Sadat served as the head of Nasser’s National Assembly during the period
which formalized party control over print media, he moved to effectively loosen media
restrictions as the mobilization model was less effective after the 1967 war: “Sadat did away
with formal censorship as part of his policies of reform and realignment (infitah), and gathered
leftist intellectuals and to certain state owned periodicals where they could generate the
appearance of limited diversity without troubling the dominant state narrative.”60
realignment was part of Sadat’s 1972 “Corrective Revolution”, as Egypt moved towards some
economic privatization and away from Nasser’s socialist policies.
With the end of formal censorship in 1973, Sadat introduced reforms that slightly increased
media space for expression while maintaining print media coverage within acceptable political
limits. Al-Tahrir maintained its publishing monopoly during the 1970’s, but Sadat allowed the
licensing of a few loyalist opposition parties to operate daily newspapers. The Egyptian private
media evolved from mobilization to the loyalist model, with softer formal controls and a
reluctance to directly criticize domestic or foreign policies. While regime monitors no longer
censored press content, private journalists still required official licenses to operate in Egypt.
Rather than cracking down and imprisoning journalists, Sadat favored the tactic of controlling
journalists through the withdrawal of press licenses. This occurred on a wide-scale in 1973, as
more than one hundred Egyptian journalists had their licenses revoked: “After six months, their
licenses were restored and they returned to their jobs, reminded effectively of their dependence
on the regime for their livelihood. For the most part they were paid salaries anyway during this
period, as a humanitarian gesture; but the threat of being prevented from exercising their
profession on a long-term basis hung over their heads as an incentive.”61
In October 1973, Sadat launched a war against Israel in an attempt to regain the occupied Sinai
Although the war ended in a stalemate, Egypt’s successful crossing of the Sinai
Peninsula was framed by Egyptians as a tactical victory.63
The outcome increased Sadat’s
domestic popularity as he gradually implemented political and media reforms. The period of
1974 through 1975 saw increased opening in the public sphere which allowed for a wider array
of media perspectives. By October 1976, Sadat formally ended one-party rule through holding
the first parliamentary elections since the Free Officers took control of Egypt. Until this political
opening, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) was the country’s only legal party and held a vast
ownership monopoly over broadcast and print media. Rather than legalizing banned parties such
as the Muslim Brotherhood, Sadat split the ruling Arab Socialist Union into three competing
political factions. While the ASU was formally dissolved in 1977, Sadat maintained control of
"October 1973 War." US Library of Congress.
Kais, Roi. "40 Years after Yom Kippur War: The Egyptian Perspective." 13 Sept. 2013. Ynet News.
state media through the ASU’s Central Committee. State controls over private media were
maintained despite the appearance of political liberalization, falling into the authoritarian
strategy of managing political contestation.
In his 1975 media reforms, Sadat established the Supreme Press Council to formulate new
media regulations and issue journalistic licenses. Three of the opposition papers that received
licenses were the leftist intellectual Rose al-Yusif, the Marxist al-Taliah, and the religious
conservative il-Itisam. However, the period of reform was abruptly rolled back as economic
conditions deteriorated sharply after 1976. Sadat’s leadership was threatened by the January
1977 public revolt against the government’s removal of food subsidies. Although the military
stepped in to end the riots after two days, the Egyptian President was forced to reinstitute
subsidies for the stability of the regime. According to a CBS News report, the ‘bread riot’ ended
with “800 injured, 80 dead, and more than 1,000 injured.”64
Sadat subsequently began to implement formal controls against opposition papers which had
criticized his economic policies: “When al-Taliah and Rose al-Yusif commented on the January
1977 rioting over consumer price increases by calling them a spontaneous expression of mass
disaffection, this clearly was out of line with the government’s view that the rioting was inspired
by radical elements. Shortly thereafter, the chairman of al-Ahram Publishing House replaced al-
Taliah, which this house published, with a science magazine, and the editor of Rose al-Yusif was
replaced by a man more supportive of government policies, so both publications ceased carrying
"Egyptians Riot in the Streets in 1977." CBS 60 Minutes Overtime, 13 Feb. 2013.
The authoritarian strategy of co-opting media coverage became more of a priority in 1977 as
Egypt entered into peace talks with Israel. In November of that year, Sadat became the first Arab
leader to visit the State of Israel and address the Israeli Knesset. The 1978 Camp David Accords
formalized peace between the two states, returning the Sinai to Egypt and establishing diplomatic
relations which continue at present. Although Sadat presented a positive image to Western
media, the peace deal with Israel isolated Egypt in the Arab world for over a decade. The Arab
League, which had been headquartered in Cairo since its founding, suspended Egypt’s
membership and moved its headquarters to Tunisia in 1979.
Sadat on the day of his assassination, October 1981
As domestic and foreign pressures mounted on Sadat’s leadership, the President reversed many
political and media openings in the late 1970’s. Sadat reasserted his authority by establishing a
new ruling political party called the National Democratic Party (NDP), returning Egypt to one-
party rule. During the period of 1978-1981, repression towards Egyptian political opposition and
media increased: “Sadat responded with repressive measures such as Law 95 of 1980, known as
the Law of Shame, which criminalized many forms of expression. In September 1981 he arrested
more than 1,000 of his critics from all parts of the political spectrum, a step often seen as
leading to his assassination by an Islamist military officer that October.”66
President Sadat was
assassinated in October 1981 as he observed a military parade commemorating the anniversary
of the 1973 war with Israel.
Hosni Mubarak, 1981
1981-2011: Media Demobilization and post-censorship
The death of President Sadat brought Vice President Hosni Mubarak to power, who for the
next three decades employed a combination of limited media liberalization and post-censorship
strategies to pacify the media environment. Upon coming to power in 1981, Mubarak restricted
media freedoms with a state of emergency maintained in the first months after the assassination.
As Egypt was in the process of pursuing closer military relations with the United States,
Mubarak moved to allow some room for media expression while maintaining the formal
constraints of the Sadat era. This approach falls into the fourth characteristic of upgrading
authoritarianism, which involves increasing international linkages. During the early 1980’s,
Mubarak pursued a similar strategies to his predecessor through allowing opposition party
newspapers to publish with broad legal restrictions. Defamation or libel of the person of the
Dunne, Michele. "Evaluating Egyptian Reform." Democracy and Rule of Law Project 66 (2006): 4. Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
president or state institutions were consistent red-lines throughout Mubarak’s tenure: “Among
the specific provisions on defamation in the Penal Code (Articles 179, 184 and 186) are those
making a crime to insult the president, the people’s assembly, the army and the judiciary.”67
By 1984 Egypt lifted restrictions on some opposition papers which had been suspended under
Sadat, allowing for greater competition among the print press. However, licenses were not issued
to political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood which had remained outlawed since 1954.68
Although the NDP continued to dominate the political sphere, it sought to project an image of
political pluralism in allowing legal opposition newspapers to compete with state run media.
Through this approach, the regime was seeking to attain two goals of upgrading authoritarianism;
Managing political contestation while containing civil society through contained media
diversification in the following decades.
With the privatization of some print media during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Mubarak’s
post-censorship press strategies relied on ownership and licensing restrictions. Private
newspapers were formally illegal until 2003, enabling state newspapers such as Al-Ahram, Al-
Gumhuriyah and Al-Akhbar to dominate the Egyptian print media. Journalists were subservient
to government appointed editors who ensured favorable coverage of ruling elites. State-run and
private papers relied on government issued advertising revenue, further compromising the
quality journalistic standards: “Journalists and editors could be tasked with securing advertising
to support their pages, with obvious effects on the independence of the content. Some ministries
Mourad, Sarah. "Brotherhood Crushed in 1954: Could History Repeat Itself in 2012?" 5 Apr. 2012. Ahram
essentially funded entire pages of state owned newspapers.”69
The trend towards limited privatization of Egyptian media occurred during 2003-2005, which
also saw the introduction of domestic satellite television channels. Through the privatization of
satellite media, Mubarak’s authoritarian strategy involved controlling new communication
technologies while capturing benefits of limited economic reforms for regime friendly
businessmen. Media privatization was also intended to counter rival Pan-Arab media networks
like Al-Jazeera, which aired programming of Egyptian Islamists such as Yusuf Qaradawi.70
Egyptian broadcasters focused primarily on entertainment programming to drown out popular
Islamist media programs such as Qaradawi’s “Shariah and Life.” Although the Muslim
Brotherhood were formally banned, they operated an extensive charity network which for
decades had developed an extensive base of political support. The Gulf monarchy of Qatar,
which funds Al-Jazeera, is a political ally of Islamist movements and provides them economic
and political support which includes favorable media coverage. Al-Jazeera’s media credibility
would later become a factor in Egyptian politics as the Brotherhood came to power in during
Egyptian media licenses were granted primarily to businessmen with close economic ties to the
regime and the military, thus giving the appearance of media diversification while maintaining a
private media environment friendly to the Mubarak regime: “Only those of the business elite
whose interests align closely enough with the interest of the regime would be permitted to own
Smoltczyk, Alexander. "Islam's Spiritual 'Dear Abby': The Voice of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood." 15 Feb. 2011.
media companies, and they could be relied upon to keep content broadly within acceptable
This media ownership factor explains the pro-military sentiment of a majority of
Egypt’s media which is linked to elite business interests. Economic liberalization greatly
benefited members of Mubarak’s inner circle as it attracted increased foreign investment in the
country. The International Monetary Fund praised the Egyptian economy as a model emerging
economy in the Middle East72
although 40 percent of the Egyptian population were living on less
than $2 a day.73
These economic conditions helped to mobilize Egyptian protesters on January
Protests in Tunis and Cairo, 2011
Chapter 5: 2011- Present
Impact of the “Arab Spring” on Tunisian and Egyptian Media
The 2011 “Arab Spring” caught regional experts off guard, as authoritarian upgrading was
presumed to be durable in maintaining regimes and their control over civil societies. By 2010
Tunisia appeared as one of the most politically secure regimes with more than five decades of
autocratic rule. Regional scholar Christopher Alexander published a book that same year arguing
Enders, Klaus. "Egypt: Reforms Trigger Economic Growth." IMF Survey Magazine. International Monetary
Fund, 13 Feb. 2008.
"The Arab Revolution: A Nile Insurgency and Uncertain Egyptian Future." 30 Jan. 2011. Der Spiegel.
that Tunisia was “one of the Arab world’s most stable and prosperous countries and one of its
hardiest authoritarian orders.”74
Ben Ali’s grip on power was repeatedly extended through the
removal of Presidential age limits and rigging consecutive elections. Tunisia’s 2009 Presidential
election was condemned by Human Rights Watch for taking place in an “atmosphere of
repression” where “severe constraints on freedoms of expression, the press, and assembly have
deprived challengers from making their case to the public.”75
Both international media outlets
such as Le Monde and domestic media were prevented from critically covering an election where
Ben Ali took 89 percent of ballots.
Tunisian Vendor Mohammed Bouazizi
On December 17, 2010, a local protest in the Tunisian provincial capital of Sidi Bouzid would
cascade into a wave of uprisings across the Arab world. Local Tunisian fruit vendor Mohammed
Bouazizi was purportedly harassed by local police for his inability to pay a requested bribe. After
having his vendor wares confiscated by the authorities, Bouazizi attempted to arrange a meeting
with the provincial governor to protest his treatment and recover his property. After being denied
the meeting, the young vendor purchased paint fuel which he used to immolate himself in front
Alexander, C. (2010). Summary. In Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb. New York City, New
"Tunisia: Elections in an Atmosphere of Repression." 23 Oct. 2009. Human Rights Watch.
of the local municipal building.76
Protests in Sidi Bouzid started immediately as Bouazizi was
rushed to a burn center in the capital Tunis.
Although national media never covered the events in Sidi Bouzid, information on the protests
spread quickly to other Tunisian cities through social media and Al-Jazeera.77
satellite news channel had been banned from reporting inside the country due to its antagonism
towards the Tunisian regime, and relied primarily on social media videos to broadcast the unrest
to a larger audience. As satellite television is widely available across Tunisia, this effectively
circumvented national media censorship of the protests.
Ben Ali visiting Mohammed Bouazizi’s hospital bed, December 2010
Since the Tunisian regime could not effectively block Al-Jazeera’s protest coverage from
reaching Tunisian audiences, government monitors attempted to hack into the social media and
e-mail accounts of Tunisian journalists and online activists.78
The Ben Ali regime utilized
national media strategies to counter what had become the largest national crisis in Tunisian
history. He set up a photo opportunity visit to the hospital bed of a dying Bouazizi, who had
Ryan, Yasmine. "The Tragic Life of a Street Vendor." 20 Jan. 2011. Al Jazeera English.
Ryan, Yasmine. "How Tunisia’s Revolution Began." 26 Jan. 2011. Al Jazeera English.
Ungerleider, Neal. "Tunisian Government Allegedly Hacking Facebook, Gmail Accounts of Dissidents and
Journalists." 10 Jan. 2011. Fast Company.
suffered extensive burns and lay in a comatose state. Although the regime had been hoping to
placate public anger, media coverage of the visit created a further backlash with Bouazizi’s
passing on January 4, 2011.79
Ben Ali’s final televised speech, January 2011
Ben Ali made a series of speeches on national television, initially blaming “a small number of
extremists and agitators” for the unrest.80
The speech did little to quell protests across the country
as the authoritarian strategy of containing civil society broke down at a rapid pace. One critical
factor involved civil society organizations such as the UGGT and the Tunisian Bar Association
joining protests for the overthrow of the regime. Before fleeing to exile in Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali
gave a final television speech to propose ending internet censorship and establishing full freedom
of the press.81
The Tunisian President had reportedly requested the military’s assistance in
shooting the protesters, but Army General Rachid Ammar’s refusal prompted Ben Ali’s
immediate decision to flee the country.82
With the total collapse of the Tunisian dictatorship on January 14, 2011, tools of media
"Tunisia Suicide Protester Mohammed Bouazizi Dies." 5 Jan. 2011. BBC News.
"Tunisia: Speech by President Ben Ali." 27 Dec. 2010. Tunisia Online News.
"Tunisian Dictator's Final Speech (English Translation)." 29 Jan. 2011. YouTube. Web.
Kirkpatrick, David. "Military Backs New Leaders in Tunisia." 16 Jan. 2011. New York Times.
censorship were promptly eliminated. The Tunisian interim authorities dissolved the ruling RCD
party along with the Ministry of Communication (which monitored internet communication) and
the Agency for External Communications (which oversaw print media censorship). Outlawed
political parties such as the Islamist Ennahda and the Tunisian Worker’s party were legalized and
participated in an open election to draft the country’s new Constitution.
Although Egyptians enthusiastically observed the Tunisian Revolution through Al-Jazeera, a
similar event in Egypt was deemed unlikely due to the military support of President Mubarak.
Time Magazine’s Abigail Hauslohner dismissed the prospect of a Tunisia inspired uprising
taking place in Egypt in 2011, emphasizing the differences in the authoritarian structure: “In
Tunisia, at a critical turning point, the Army took the side of the protesters in the street: it
refused to fire on demonstrators. In Egypt, however, the military stands with Mubarak. The
Interior Ministry, which runs the police, stands with Mubarak. Mubarak knows better than to
falter on security, Egyptians say.”83
This faulty analysis resembled Christopher Alexander’s
2010 book on Tunisia, which overemphasized the durability of individual autocrats.
The Egyptian Revolution commenced on January 25, 2011, coinciding with National Police
As in the Tunisian uprising, the combination of social media and Al-Jazeera had a
tremendous impact on mobilizing Egyptian protesters. President Mubarak moved immediately to
contain events on the ground through switching off internet and cell phone access for
"After Tunisia: Why Egypt Isn't Ready to Have Its Own Revolution." 20 Jan. 2011. Time Magazine.
Fahim, Kareem, and Mona El-Naggar. "Violent Clashes Mark Protests Against Mubarak’s Rule." 25 Jan. 2011.
New York Times.
During the first week of protests, Egypt quickly shifted from post-censorship media
strategies to direct censorship against any press outlets covering the protests. Authorities shut
down Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau and scrambled its signal to prevent coverage inside the
Prior to the protests, English language media such as the BBC and CNN had been
given more latitude in coverage of Egypt to reinforce the appearance of media liberalization.
With the protests gaining momentum, tolerance for international media ceased as the regime
assaulted Western journalists including CNN’s Anderson Cooper.87
The national media were
compelled to emphasize small pro-government demonstrations and frame coverage of
demonstrations at Tahrir Square as acts of national destabilization.88
“During the uprising, state
owned media did all they could to deny the scale of the uprising, to conjure popular support for
the incumbent, to paint demonstrators as foreign agents and so on. But with local as well as
transnational alternatives to turn to, Egyptians were not as readily manipulated as they might
have been in the past.”89
Hosni Mubarak, February 2011
While Mubarak retained the loyalty of the state-run media outlets and Egyptian security
Roads, Christopher, and Geoffrey Fowler. "Egypt Shuts Down Internet, Cellphone Services." 29 Jan. 2011. Wall
"Egypt Condemned for Blocking Media." 31 Jan. 2011. Al Jazeera English.
"Journalists under Physical Assault in Egypt." 2 Feb. 2011. Committee to Protect Journalists.
Asser, Martin. "Egyptian Media: State Misinformation amid the Protests?" 4 Feb. 2011. BBC News.
services, his relationship with the Egyptian military was more complicated. Mubarak had a
military background going back to 1950 but left the military in 1975 to become Sadat’s Vice
President. Although he served as the civilian commander of the armed forces, Hauslohner’s
presumption of unconditional military support turned out to be erroneous. As spiraling instability
put increasing pressure on the state, the army moved to stabilize the situation through arranging
the President’s exit from power. With Mubarak stepping down on February 11, 2011, the
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took control for the next 18 months as Egypt
moved towards adopting a new Constitution and holding free elections. This is an important
distinction from Tunisia’s immediate post-revolutionary transition where a civilian interim
government was free of military control and held elections to draft a Constitution.
Unlike the significantly smaller Tunisian military, Egypt has the largest active military in
Africa and the Middle East. Organizationally the Egyptian military operates as an autonomous
institution in the nation’s politics and economy.90
Top military leaders dominate large economic
sectors through control of the strategic Suez Canal, which has been under military control since
After the fall of Mubarak, Egypt’s national media system maintained a loyalist approach
towards the new rulers: “The same newspapers that glorified Mubarak, and then briefly, the
people of Egypt, soon started glorifying the SCAF and its leader at the time, General Hussein
The Egyptian Information Ministry, whose duties involved licensing newspapers and
journalists, was briefly dissolved in February 2011 before being reinstated by the SCAF five
Hauslohner, Abigail. "Egypt’s Military Expands Its Control of the Country’s Economy." 16 Mar. 2014.
"Egypt Seizes Suez Canal." 26 July 1956. BBC News.
Abdulla, Rasha. "Egypt's Media in the Midst of Revolution." Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
In contrast, Tunisia never reinstated the ATCE which reinforced the conditions
for a more diverse media environment.
Although Egyptian print publications initially had more freedom to publish a variety of
political viewpoints, military leadership took steps to ensure that Egyptian journalists did not
cover military related matters without prior approval:94
“Those who criticized the army were
intimidated by the regime in several ways. As early as March 2011, the army started subjecting
bloggers and journalists to military trials and investigations.”95
Reporters without Borders
documented 32 cases of journalist assaults and imprisonments during May 2012 alone, a pattern
that continued throughout the SCAF period.96
During 2012, Egypt held a series of free elections
which were extensively covered by national media. Press coverage during this period tended to
become polarized between Islamist and secular media outlets, with most of the latter playing an
oppositional role to the political rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Mohammed Morsi casting a ballot, June 2012
"Egypt's Reinstatement of Information Ministry Is a Setback." 12 July 2011. Committee to Protect Journalists.
"Substantial Setback for Press Freedom in Egypt." 13 Apr. 2011. Committee to Protect Journalists.
"More than 30 Journalists Assaulted and Detained during 4 May Cairo Protest." 9 May 2012. Reporters without
The Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), had been legalized for
the first time in several decades with the fall of Mubarak.97
After dominating Parliamentary
elections, the FJP’s candidate Mohammed Morsi won the Presidential election in June 2012.
With the SCAF handing power to Morsi’s FJP, the new President appointed a political ally to
oversee the Ministry of Information while the Islamist Shura appointed editors of state run
With the empowered Islamists taking charge of state-run media, long-term
media employees maintained political sympathies to former President Mubarak and the SCAF.
President Morsi took steps to impose a loyalist system by muting media coverage critical of the
FJP: “Intimidation of journalists and bloggers intensified during Morsi’s year in power.”99
had occurred occasionally under Mubarak, legal steps were pursued to shut down private media
outlets such as Al-Dustour and Al-Faraeen on charges of “insulting the President.”100
ruling party set up Private Islamist television channels such as Misr 25, Al-Nas and Al-Hafez to
push back against media outlets considered hostile towards the Brotherhood. Morsi also received
media assistance from the state of Qatar, which had set up Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr as a Pro-
Brotherhood media outlet.
Former Emir of Qatar Al Thani visits Mohammed Morsi, October 2012
Shehata, Said. "Profile: Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party." 25 Nov. 2011. BBC News.
Michael, Maggie. "Islamists Installed in Egypt State Institutions." 4 Sept. 2012. Associated Press.
"Egypt's Morsi Consolidates His Power." 10 Sept. 2012. Deutsche Welle.
By early 2013, there was significant media criticism of Al-Jazeera’s support for the Morsi
regime: “Since the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power in Egypt, Al-Jazeera has done all in
its power to portray the group in a favourable light. Protests against the Brotherhood-dominated
regime are presented as being led by violent thugs with no political grievances, while Morsi's
poorly constructed and shallow speeches are given positive coverage.”101
As Qatar increasingly
promoted Islamists through media, the credibility of the popular Pan-Arab satellite channel
diminished significantly. Several Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt resigned in protest due to the
editorial bias which had increased during Morsi’s term.102
General Abdul Fatah Al Sisi announces overthrow of Morsi, July 2013
Egypt had become increasingly polarized with anti-Brotherhood protests by July 2013,
prompting the Egyptian military to launch a coup overthrowing Morsi’s government. The
subsequent crackdown targeted Islamist media outlets while most Egyptian media outlets (state-
run and private) took an increasingly jingoistic tone: “Many Egyptian television stations fueled
pro-military nationalism and stoked fears of foreigners as spies and journalists as undermining
national security. Today, the accusation of “Al Jazeera” can lead to attack, and working as a
journalist can lead to arrest.”103
Hussein, Ghaffar. "The Collapse of Al-Jazeera's Credibility." 18 Feb. 2012. The Commentator.
Hussein, Ghaffar. "‘We Aired Lies’: Al Jazeera Staff Quit over ‘misleading’ Egypt Coverage." 9 July 2013. Al
Rahimi, Shadi. "Media Crackdown More Severe for Egyptian Journalists." 21 Mar. 2014. Al Monitor.
Within a period of three short years, the Egyptian national media system had gone from the
transitional model under Mubarak and reverted to the mobilization model after the 2013 coup.
Media freedoms continued to erode as the military regime consolidated its power through a new
constitution: “A new constitution adopted in January (2014) contained a number of press
freedom guarantees, but these were undermined by important exceptions as well as existing legal
restrictions that remained in effect... Journalists also faced violence when covering protests, and
most media outlets increasingly displayed a strong pro-government bias, with self-censorship
contributing to the broader loss of pluralism and diversity of opinion.”104
Tunisia’s Islamist dominated coalition government condemned the Egyptian military coup.105
The transition in Tunisia had experienced political turbulence during the same period, as a
jihadist threat materialized in the midst of economic instability and a refugee crisis from
neighboring Libya. As the constituent assembly negotiated a new Tunisian Constitution, two
political assassinations in 2013 threatened to undermine the democratic transition and extension
Arab governments had a history of rolling back political and media reforms
during periods of chaos, but this did not take place in Tunisia during 2013. Protests against the
Ennahda Islamists were increased by the secular opposition, with private media criticizing the
government’s ability to handle domestic extremists.107
Interim President Moncef Marzouki
attempted to push back against the media through the publishing of archival information linking
some journalists to the Ben Ali regime.
"Freedom of the Press: Egypt." Freedom House, 2015.
Amara, Tarek. "Tunisian Rulers Bemoan Egypt's "coup against Legitimacy"" 4 July 2013. Reuters.
Yassin Al-Jalassi, Mohammed. "Accusations Fly on Tunisian Opposition Assassinations." 3 Oct. 2013. Al
"Tunisia's Ennahda Slams Strike Calls." 6 Aug. 2012. Al Akhbar.
Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, (2011-2014)
As a secular ally of the Islamists, Marzouki’s release of information was perceived as a smear
campaign against journalists who had been critical of the coalition government.108
Marzouki argued for governmental transparency, the controversial release of the “Black Book”
had an effect of discrediting individual journalists who had previously worked under the
constraints of dictatorship. Despite their political views, many contemporary Tunisian journalists
had little choice in their former association: “Being founded during the dictatorship and before
the revolution, media groups were inevitably obliged to work out the best way to survive and
“coexist” with the Ben Ali regime.”109
Ghribi, Asma. "Tunisia's 'Black Book' Strikes at Media Freedom." 6 Dec. 2013. Foreign Policy.
Barata Mir, Juan. “Political and Media Transitions in Tunisia: A Snapshot of Media Policy and Regulatory
Environment.” 2011. 2. Internews.
Tunisian Constituent Assembly applauds passage of new Constitution, January 2014
In January 2014, the Islamist Ennahda party agreed to step down and hand power to a
temporary technocratic government. The most critical historical watershed for press freedom
occurred when negotiations for a new Constitution produced broad protections for freedom of
the press, established in Article 31: “Freedom of opinion, thought, expression, media and
publication shall be guaranteed. These freedoms shall not be subject to prior censorship.”110
This new constitutional article was reinforced by a prior overhaul of the Tunisian Press Code,
which granted the national media system wider latitude in criticizing the government: “The new
press code has abolished the criminalization of defamation of State institutions and the
publication of offensive content concerning the president. At the same time freedom of access to
the Internet became effective, with websites no longer being blocked.”111
Analytical Narrative and Findings
With the exception of Tunisia, by 2015 all “Arab Spring” countries have either reverted to
authoritarianism (Egypt and Bahrain) or fallen into civil conflict (Syria, Libya and Yemen) in
"The Constitution of the Tunisian Republic." United Nations Development Programme, 26 Jan. 2014.
Driss, Ahmed. "Arab Citizenship Review No. 3." (2013). Center for Mediterranean and International Studies.
what is currently framed by media as the “Arab Winter.”112
Although theories behind
authoritarian upgrading appear to validate the outcomes in Egypt and Bahrain, the same theories
falter with Tunisia’s democratic transition and the breakdown of central authority in Syria, Libya
and Yemen. As freedom of the press serves as a good indicator of democratization, regional
experts have been forced to formulate new explanations as to why Tunisia succeeded where
Egypt failed. Contemporary structural arguments are often referenced to explain the different
outcomes between Tunisia and Egypt, but these arguments are not convincing and require more
One explanation cites Tunisia’s smaller homogenous population and a political culture of
consensus not present in Egypt.113
However, the political polarization between Egyptian
Islamists and Secularists tended to be just as intense in Tunisia during 2013. As the military coup
took in Egypt, political gridlock and large scale protests gripped Tunisia114
which persuaded the
ruling Islamist party to step down from power.115
The political polarization continued to be
evident in the 2014 Tunisian parliamentary election results as the secular Nidaa Tunis Party
narrowly defeated Ennahda.116
Perry, Dan. "Four Years On, Something of an Arab Winter." 7 Dec. 2014. Associated Press.
Pillar, Paul. "A Maghreb Triptych: How the Arab Spring Has Worked Well or Worked Badly." 27 Oct. 2014.
The National Interest.
Chaieb, Ines, and Raouf Ben Hedi. "Anti-Government Protesters Outnumber Ennahda Supporters." 14 Aug.
2013. Al Monitor.
Gall, Carlotta. "Islamist Party in Tunisia to Step Down." 28 Sept. 2013. New York Times.
Loveluck, Louisa. "Islamists Admit Defeat in Landmark Tunisia Elections." 27 Oct. 2014. The Telegraph.
Another explanation centers on Tunisia’s more educated and wealthier population being more
receptive to democracy,117
and by extension media freedom. However, an Arab Barometer
Survey indicated that Tunisians were not necessarily more inclined than Egyptians towards
democracy in 2013.118
As economic and political conditions deteriorated in both countries,
disillusionment with democracy tended to rise to similar levels. The economic situation in
Tunisia declined dramatically after the revolution, especially with the vital tourism sector falling
by as much as 40 percent after the revolution.119
Although Egypt faces similar challenges in terms of a diminishing tourism sector,120
dire economic situation actually made it less likely to transition to democracy and expanded
media freedom. Egypt enjoys significant economic advantages not present in Tunisia. Although
the per capita income is lower in Egypt, this is somewhat offset through revenue from the Suez
Canal and significant financial aid from Gulf monarchies.121
This aid has enabled Egypt’s
authorities to begin planning a new city to replace Cairo as the capital, estimated to cost as much
as $45 billion.122
Therefore, explanations emphasizing Tunisia’s economic advantage is belied
by the fact that the 2011 uprising was primarily based on deteriorating economic conditions.
Despite repeated economic setbacks, Tunisia’s rulers since 2011 have pressed forward with an
implementation of media freedoms which undermine the economic argument.
Freund, Caroline. "Trading Places: How the Trade vs. Aid Debate Shows the Different Trajectories of Egypt and
Tunisia." 4 Feb. 2014. Foreign Policy.
"Arab Democracy Barometer III." 2013.
Maqni, Nizar. "One Year After the Revolution: The Tunisian Economy Is in the Red." 19 Dec. 2011. Al Akhbar.
Kingsley, Patrick. "Egypt's Tourism Revenues Fall after Political Upheavals." 29 Aug. 2014. The Guardian.
Kirkpatrick, David D. "3 Persian Gulf Nations Pledge $12 Billion in Aid for Egypt." 13 Mar. 2015. New York
Walker, Brian. "Egypt Unveils Plan to Build Glitzy New Capital." 16 Mar. 2015. CNN.
Egyptian President Sisi with military leaders
The most credible explanation for Tunisia’s trajectory is the lack of a deep state military
hierarchy competing within the political and economic spheres: “The term ‘deep state’ refers to a
group of powerful nondemocratic leaders who, though they may be concealed under layers of
bureaucracy, are actually in control of the country.”123
Although the military removed Mubarak
in 2011, deep state structures were maintained and utilized to launch a political coup and control
over national media. During the 1950’s, Egypt’s military leadership created parallel structures of
power which continue to impact national media development. Nasser’s early nationalization
efforts created a culture replete with pro-military sentiments most evident in contemporary
national media. Despite historic evolution in authoritarian strategies towards media, the majority
of Egypt’s national press (both state-run and private) remained loyal to the institution of the
military as a source of national unity. During the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution and the 2013
coup, national media framed the SCAF as national saviors during periods of political turmoil.
In Tunisia the military is institutionally outside the political sphere but shares some structural
similarities with their Egyptian counterparts. Media criticism of the Tunisian military is
Ben Solomon, Ariel. "Sisi Regime Shows Confidence as ‘Deep State’ returns to Egypt's Political Landscape." 12
Jan. 2014. Jerusalem Post.
considered defamation punishable by imprisonment, as occurred in the 2015 case of a blogger
convicted of insulting military leaders.124
Although there a wide latitude for criticism of non-
military institutions and officials, a 1957 law against “harming the dignity of the army” and
“defaming the army high command with the effect of undermining military discipline”125
remains an obstacles to full freedom of expression in Tunisia.
Despite holding antiquated laws on media coverage, the Tunisian military has important
distinctions. Tunisia never required a large military due to its small size and lack of significant
material resources. Egypt historically required a large military due to control over the Suez Canal
and multiple wars with Israel during the 20th century. Tunisia’s military remained small to
prevent the possibility of a “deep state” structure competing as a rival in the political sphere:
“The restraint of the Tunisian military is also a consequence of deliberate policy adopted by
Habib Bourguiba and later Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, both former presidents who starved the
military of resources and limited its operations.”126
The Tunisian military has never operated
independently of civilian authorities who have direct oversight of its budget through the Defense
Ministry. Military leaders in Tunisia are not major players in the economic sphere, and therefore
the interests of Tunisian economic elites were never tied to the military.
Both militaries played a vital role in removing individual autocrats, yet the Tunisian military
deferred to an interim civilian government while Egyptian military leadership installed
themselves as interim authorities. This was an important historical distinction made liberalization
"Tunisian Military Court 'gives Blogger One Year in Prison'" 20 Jan. 2015. Associated Press.
Ghribi, Asma. "Another Blow to Freedom of Speech in Tunisia." 23 Jan. 2015. Foreign Policy.
Bellin, Eva. "Explaining Democratic Divergence: Why Tunisia Has Succeeded and Egypt Has Failed." 10 Dec.
2014. Project on Middle East Political Science.
of the media system more likely to take place in Tunisia. The historical overview mentioned that
one of the first steps undertaken by Tunisian interim authorities in 2011 was the immediate
dismantlement of censorship agencies and reform of the press code. Egyptian military rulers
abolished the Ministry of Information only to reinstate it only a few months later,127
reversing steps to diffuse media control. This was an early indication of Egypt’s “deep state”
intention to maintain media orthodoxy over the national press. With the military seizing power in
2013, the tools of censorship were in place to ensure national media fell in line with official
narratives. As discussed previously, the majority of Egyptian media outlets are owned by
businessmen with economic ties to the military, thereby reinforcing conditions for media support
and public acquiescence.
The lack of a deep state ironically made Tunisia’s media environment more repressive during
the Ben Ali years, with the regime lacking reinforcement outside of the loyalist security services.
Since Bourguiba had set up a system concentrated in an individual autocrat, the machinery of
control became more vulnerable to breakdown and overthrow. As the Labor movement, Islamists
and student activists increasingly challenged Tunisian regimes, measures outside of media
control became necessary in creating public acquiescence. During the same period, managing
political contestation and civil society in Egypt required fewer punitive measures as the main
political rival in Egypt was the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The level of press freedoms in
Egypt is a reflection of the strength of political opposition, which tends to be weaker within deep
"Egypt's Reinstatement of Information Ministry Is a Setback." Committee to Protect Journalists, 12 July 2011.
Outside the Brotherhood, fragmented political opposition did not pose a serious challenge to
the Mubarak regime during the 2010 parliamentary elections.128
Unlike Tunisia, Egypt did not
have a strong national labor movement to politically check and counter the regime. Tunisia’s
current multi-party system requires a pluralistic press system for political contestation, while
Egypt’s consolidation of the political sphere has led to a nationalistic media system similar to the
“neo-soviet” model existing in Russia. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia established a
deep state system129
which effectively utilizes media for political purposes. Despite the existence
of state-run and private press outlets, author Sarah Oates describes the “neo-soviet model” as
containing elements of nationalistic bias, journalistic self-censorship, convergence of
government and commercial influences, lack of journalistic professionalism, flaws in mass
media law, funding problems for mass media, and official harassment of journalists.130
of these elements exists within Egypt’s current media system, and is unlikely to change without
the abolishment of the deep state system.
Conclusion and Discussion
The divergence between Tunisia and Egypt’s media developments indicates that authoritarian
structures are not as durable as previously assumed, and can be undermined through media
power (social media and satellite broadcasting). Patterns of brief media openings occurred in
both countries as new leaders came to power, accompanied by subsequent media crackdowns
during periods of crisis. The crackdowns on national media systems highlights the inability of
"Egypt's Parliamentary Elections." 26 Nov. 2010. The Economist.
De Waal, Thomas. "Russia's Toxic Deep State." 30 Aug. 2011. National Interest.
Oates, Sarah. "The Neo-Soviet Model of the Media." Europe-Asia Studies 58.9 (2007): 1289-1291.
regimes to completely control national media flows, especially in a globalized information age
which diffuses both power and information. The contemporary media systems of Tunisia and
Egypt are connected to the historical watersheds in which they developed. Although the legacy
of dictatorship in Tunisia continues to affect the credibility of their national media system, this
credibility gap assisted the transition to the first relatively liberal media system in the Arab
world. As Tunisia develops a more professional and credible media system, regional experts
must formulate a new Arab media model outside the authoritarian framework.
Egypt’s media remains under an authoritarian model, but the immediate opening after the 2011
protests sets a precedent for the future diffusion of media power. Although deep state structures
continues to impede the expression and diversification of media viewpoints, the Egyptian
historical overview demonstrates how political conditions consistently offer the media openings
at various junctures. Consider that Turkey for many decades maintained a deep state structure
which dominated the political sphere and the national media system. With the gradual emergence
of civil society, deep state power structures gave way to a relatively more open democratic
system and media space. Turkey continues to face media freedom issues even under a
competitive multi-party electoral system, so simple political democratization is not sufficient in
ensuring diverse media viewpoints. The diversification of national media systems is often stifled
by consolidation of media ownership, a phenomenon that is also present in liberal democracies.
Should Egypt’s deep state concede political room to civil society, media reforms would be
required to ensure a more pluralist media system.
The study of Arab national media systems is an emerging academic topic which assists
international relations scholars in better analyzing how regimes utilize soft power in North
Africa and the wider Arab world. From an international media perspective, this region remains a
daily focus of international news headlines where both military and media power work
simultaneously to attain national objectives. Arab countries such as Qatar (Al-Jazeera), Saudi
Arabia (Al-Arabiya) and Lebanon (Tele Liban) all utilize satellite media to expand their
influence beyond their respective national borders. Even non-Arab governments such as the
United States (Al-Hurra), the UK (BBC Arabic) Russia (RT Arabic), France (France 24 Arabic),
and Iran (Al-Alam) have recognized the importance of Arab speaking audiences through entering
the regional media market.
The development of global Arab media offers great potential for the progress of national media
systems, as journalists gain instant access to international media flows while improving
credibility through quality media content. As Qatar was a pioneer in Pan-Arab satellite media,
Tunisia seems likely to pioneer Arab media expression under a democratic structure. Egypt’s
media system will likely surprise future observers, based on historic contributions to Arabic
literature, cinema, and journalism at various periods of its history. The “Arab Spring” uprisings
demonstrated how political changes inside Tunisia and Egypt are not isolated to national borders,
and how media systems are not static but rather responsive to historical changes. Through this
historical synthesis of various literatures, it is hoped that future scholarship will formulate newer
frameworks to reflect the current media transitions taking place in North Africa and across the
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