President’s warning comes amid controversy over a BBC investigation into alleged rights abuses by security forces.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned on Thursday he considers defamation of the country’s armed forces and police an act of “high treason” that wouldn’t be tolerated.
In televised comments during a visit to the Mediterranean coastal town of Alamein, he reminded viewers of the hundreds of soldiers and police officers killed by armed groups in recent years.
“If anyone defames them, he is defaming all Egyptians. It’s no longer a question of freedom of speech,” said Sisi, a former general who led the military overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
“No one defames the army and police while I am here.”
Sisi’s comments came a day after a call by Egypt’s top prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, for legal action against news outlets that publish “false news, statements and rumors”.
“[The decision comes] in light of recent attempts by the forces of evil to undermine the safety and security of the nation by broadcasting and spreading lies,” Sadek said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticised the British broadcaster BBC on Tuesday for recent reporting on human rights in the country.
“It is … regretful to notice lack of professionalism in the performance of some media outlets, which base their coverage on fabricated sources, for political purposes, or in search of scoops,” he said.
“This was the case in BBC’s last week report on Egypt, where the girl – who was alleged as forcibly disappeared and tortured – appeared on screens refuting such claims.”
The State Information Service accused the BBC of spreading false information and demanded an apology “refuting the professional errors and violations, as well as the allegations on the situation in Egypt”.
BBC published a short documentary on February 23 purporting to show human rights violations in the North African country.
It gave detailed account of arrests, forced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence as recounted by victims and their families. Egyptian authorities called the reporting “flagrantly fraught with lies”.
Hatem Azzam, a former member of Egypt’s parliament and a human rights advocate, said in a tweet the BBC story exposed practices that have become all too common.
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