Egyptian steel and media tycoon Ahmed Abou Hashima. Photograph: Via Enterprise.

Egypt: The state’s propaganda business reshuffles

Eagle Capital announced on Monday taking over Egyptian businessman Ahmed Abou Hashima’s stake in Egyptian Media Group (EMG).

EMG is the parent company of high-profile media assets including Synergy, ONTV, and Presentation Advertising Agency.

The value of the transaction was not disclosed, nor were any further details regarding EMG’s plan to go public in 2018.

In 2016, Egyptian Media Group had signed an agreement with FEP Capital to manage the company’s restructuring plan to offer a stake in an initial public offering on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX).

Media reported then that EMG would raise at least EGP 1bn ($113m) in an initial public offering during the first quarter of 2018.

The transaction is Eagle Capital’s first, former investment minister and Chairperson Dalia Khorshid said in a statement, noting that the sector “reflects our interest in a strategic sector that touches the lives of consumers on a daily basis.”

EMG had recently bought the ONTV channels from Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, as well as 50% of Misr Cinema Company from businessman Kamel Abou Ali.

Daily News Egypt could not immediately reach Khorshid for comment.

Abou Hashima is currently chairperson and CEO of the Cairo-based Egyptian Steel, which he co-founded in 2009.

He has worked in the steel industry since 1996, which was the same year he received his Bachelor’s degree in commerce.

In addition to Egyptian Steel, the tycoon also owns Abou Hashima Steel Group and has shares in many other major industry companies in Egypt.

Steel was not the only thing Abou Hashima had his sights set on.

The tycoon also sought to make his mark in the media industry, but it seems his strategy has changed.

Aside from acquisitions by businessmen linked to the government and the intelligence services, the government’s influence over the broadcast media landscape was also significantly enhanced in 2016 by the creation of a DMC, a major new TV network with a range of news, sports and entertainment channels.

Dubbed “the mouthpiece of the intelligence services” by some journalists and launched with a patriotic anthem and Koranic chants, DMC gets permission to film where other privately-owned TV channels are denied access. It is also known to broadcast interviews that are presented as exclusives but just reiterate the regime’s pro-security, anti-Muslim Brotherhood dogma.

As well as increasing its control over the traditional media, the regime is now blocking access to more and more websites. On 29 August, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), an Egyptian NGO, put the number of blocked sites at 424. They have included the RSF site since mid-August.

Egypt is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Based on stories by The Daily News Egypt & RSF

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