File Photo: A concert held on top of Egypt's Cinema Rio (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)
Egypt has established a permanent committee mandated with regulating and granting licences for festivals and special events in the country, according to decree by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.
The committee will be headed by the culture minister as well as representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, finance, tourism, antiquities, civil aviation, youth and sports, and local development.
The committee will also include a representative from the cabinet, the heads of cultural and art syndicates and a number of experts on culture and arts.
The decree defines "festivals" and "special events" as gatherings that have a ceremonial nature and are held by governmental or non-governmental bodies with the aim of "developing creativity and preserving the Egyptian cultural identity," according to Article 1 of the decree.
Article 2 stipulates that it is unlawful to hold a special event or a festival except after receiving licenses from the culture ministry following "coordination with the relevant authorities in the state."
The committee will review requests to hold the festivals and follow up on their execution, as well as issue an evaluation and periodic reports on each festival or special event held.
The committee is allowed entry into the headquarters of organisations holding the festivals during or after the event is held.
The committee is tasked with setting an annual agenda for the dates and venues of festivals.
The new body will determine the monetary and logistical support given by the state to non-governmental bodies for holding festivals and special events under the condition that financing by the state does not exceed 40 percent of the budget for the event.
The committee will also coordinate with governors nationwide to ban any festivals that have not received a license.
The new decree states that NGOs that hold festivals must be operating within the law, with a capital of at least EGP 500,000 and have an Egyptian owner with 51 percent or more of its shares.
Those seeking to hold a festival should present a request for licensing during June of each year to the culture minister, including the organising body of the festival, its activities, venues, and its source of funding.
The culture minister has the right to reject the request if the festival or special event does not "accomplish the aims set in article 1" or has sources of funding that are unclear.
The minister also has the right to suspend the festival temporarily or cancel the license if the event involves a violation or "defames the reputation of Egypt."
It is not yet clear how the new regulations could affect organisers in Egypt, who are already required to obtain licenses from several state bodies to hold their festivals.
Recently, several parties and concerts held in Egypt have caused controversy after images of the events went viral online, with a number of officials asking the state to ban such parties.
Last May, high-profile Egyptian MP and head of the youth and sports committee in parliament Farag Amer called for banning El-Gouna's Sandbox Music Festival, which he described as "parties of nudity and pornography."
Sandbox is a yearly electronic music festival organised by the entertainment company Nacelle and has been held on various Egyptian beaches since 2013.
In September 2017, a concert featuring Lebanese rock bank Mashrou’ Leila sparked criticism after a number of concert-goers waved rainbow (LGBT) flags at the event, which was held in Cairo and attended by 25,000 people.
The prosecution said the concert "was organised by a group of homosexuals to promote homosexuality," and that the flags were a representation of “these abnormal practices.”
Several people have been arrested since the concert on “debauchery” charges following a number of raids.