Is Egypt complicit in Israel's media blackout of Gaza?

Is Egypt complicit in Israel's media blackout of Gaza?
With Gaza facing an Israeli-imposed media blackout, The New Arab looks at Egypt's role and potential complicity.
3 min read
16 December, 2023
Media workers and journalists are confined to the Egyptian side of Rafah with all access to Gaza denied by the Egyptian government [Getty]

Since Israel began its war on Gaza, it has blocked all media from entering Gaza unless they are embedded with its military forces. This is seen by many as an attempt by Tel Aviv to control the narrative.

But given Egypt also shares a border with Gaza and has been critical of perceived pro-Israel media bias in the West, The New Arab looks into why Cairo isn’t letting journalists into the Palestinian enclave.

Could Egypt let journalists into Gaza?

Egypt has complete sovereign control over the Rafah border crossing and can open and close it as it pleases without foreign interference. Legitimate journalists could potentially entering Gaza via Egypt, especially given Israel has blocked all access outside of compliant journalists embedded with Israeli forces.

Have journalists attempted to reach Gaza through Rafah?

According to an investigative report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalists attempting to enter Gaza from Rafah are told to apply for “Israel’s agreement” if they want access, despite the crossing being under Egyptian control.

Israel has, without exception, refused to grant its agreement to Egyptian and international journalists.

In an audio recording obtained by RSF of the response an Israeli press spokesperson gave to a journalist who requested a permit to enter via Rafah, she said that Israel couldn’t issue permits for a crossing point that isn’t under Israeli control.

“I have the impression it’s just a pretext. I think they’re making you go round in circles,”, the spokesperson said regarding what Egypt is telling journalists.

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Why is Egypt not letting journalists into Rafah?

Long before 7 October, North Sinai, where Rafah is located, has been very difficult for journalists to access. The regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has waged a brutal and much criticised counterinsurgency against Islamic State group affiliates and disaffected Bedouin tribes in the region, and independent media outlets have previously been targeted by the government for reporting on the highly sensitive area.

During the current war on Gaza, Israel has also bombed the Gazan side of Rafah on multiple occasions, which RSF says sent Egypt the message that while it controls the land border, Israel dominates the skies over Rafah.

Israel and Egypt’s intelligence and security forces have a long history of cooperation when it comes to Rafah, thus Egypt could be operating according to this relationship.

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Is Egypt complicit in the media blackout of Gaza?

Rights groups such as RSF have concluded that Egypt is complicit. They have accused Cairo of actively blocking access to Gaza for journalists and then blaming Israel for it. 

While Israel is primarily responsible for the media blackout, RSF concluded that: “[T]he buck-passing between Israel and Egypt, in which each blames the other for the denials of access, shows that the two governments have a mutual interest in preventing international media coverage of the situation in the Gaza Strip.”

In November, 67 foreign media correspondents wrote to the Egyptian government to gain access to Gaza via Rafah. The letter has gone unanswered and the border remains shut to journalists.