CAIRO // A post-revolution media boom in Egypt has prompted some distrust over ownership and calls for more stringent regulation, despite efforts for improved freedom of speech.
A wave of new media aiming to take advantage of a new-found liberalism in print and broadcast launched after January 25, the date widely considered to be the beginning of the end for Hosni Mubarak's presidency. But questions are being asked of some of Egypt's media moguls over who owns these new organisations, their sources of funding and whether their content is truly independent.
"New media gives the audience the right to choose and check information, but at the same time it opens the scene for many questions about sponsorship, which is very dangerous," said Gamal Zayda, the managing editor and a columnist at Al Ahram newspaper, one of the three main government-owned newspapers.
"We need to know the source of money coming from abroad sponsoring the media in Egypt," he said, referring to rumours that money has been pouring in from Gulf countries to sponsor newspaper startups in Egypt.
"One of the basic rules and obligations from journalists and the media is to tell readers who is sponsoring them," he said.
He also questioned the motives of "unknown businessmen" behind these companies and their monopoly over a newspaper or broadcast channel.
He added that the country's media was in dire need of stricter regulation and increased transparency of ownership before it could meet international standards.
Dozens of media organisations have appeared in the past few months catering to the populist symbolism of Tahrir Square, including Al Tahrir newspaper, owned by Ibrahim Eissa, a former editor of opposition paper Al Dostour (The Constitution).
Tahrir TV, Modern Horreya (Freedom) and Cairo Broadcast Centre are also among the new radio and television channels that have launched since the revolution.
Egyptian media is traditionally either government owned, partisan and owned by an opposition political party, or independent and funded by one or two entrepreneurs.
But critics say the absence of a powerful and independent media regulator in the country has affected the editorial content of both independent and government-owned newspapers, radio and television channels. A recent decision to reinstate the information ministry, an institution seen as suffocating freedom of press during the Mubarak regime, reflects this concern.
The supreme council of armed forces, which has been in charge of Egypt since Mr Mubarak stepped down, has been flexing its muscle, with memos ordering organisations to get permission before publishing military-related matters.
Rasha Allam, a media professor at the American University in Cairo, said that to address the scepticism surrounding ownership and independence, a restructuring of the industry was required.
"We need very clear definitions of who is appointed [to government-owned newspapers] plus better policies and regulation in terms of the structure of organisation of media," she said. Al Masry al Youm (The Egyptian Today), considered to be one of few independent newspapers in Egypt, is majority-owned by two businessmen including the telecoms billionaire Naguib Sawiris and Salah Diab, whose grandfather Tawfiq Diab was one of Egypt's most renowned publishers in the 1930s and 1940s.
But interference by the two shareholders prompted the former publisher and chief executive of Al Masry al Youm, Hisham Kassem, to resign, he said.
He is now setting up his own media company focusing on online, print, broadcast and mobile.