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Egypt to monitor media ahead of voting

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 photo, provided by Egypt's state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, third left, attends the inauguration of the East Suez Canal Counter-Terrorism command, in Sinai, Egypt. Egypt's chief prosecutor on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 reminded his staff to closely monitor the media and start legal action against any outlet that disrupts security or hurts national interests, according to a statement issued by his office. (MENA via AP)

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 photo, provided by Egypt's state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, attends the inauguration of the East Suez Canal Counter-Terrorism command, in Sinai, Egypt. Nabil Sadeq, Egypt's chief prosecutor on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 reminded his staff to closely monitor the media and start legal action against any outlet that disrupts security or hurts national interests, according to a statement issued by his office. (MENA via AP) Uncredited

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 photo, provided by Egypt's state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, attends the inauguration of the East Suez Canal Counter-Terrorism command, in Sinai, Egypt. Egypt's chief prosecutor on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 reminded his staff to closely monitor the media and start legal action against any outlet that disrupts security or hurts national interests, according to a statement issued by his office. (MENA via AP)



Associated Press
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Egypt’s chief prosecutor told his staff Wednesday to closely monitor the media and move against any they consider to be “hurting national interests,” the latest move by authorities to suppress any dissenting voices ahead of elections seen as virtually a one-man race ensuring the re-election of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The government has already sought to exert heavy control over reporting on the March 26-28 election, issuing guidelines barring journalists from asking people who they would vote for beforehand or from conducting any polling. Authorities have also increasingly depicted criticism as a violation of national security at a time when Egypt is trying to revive its economy battered by years of turmoil and contain an insurgency by Islamic militants.

In a brief statement, top prosecutor Nabil Sadeq said “forces of evil” – one of el-Sissi’s hallmark phrases – have recently been trying to “undermine the security and safety of the nation through the broadcast and publication of lies and false news.”

Prosecutors should take legal action against media outlets that disseminate “false, news, statements or rumors” that could instill “terror” in society, hurt the public interest or disrupt peace. Media regulatory bodies must notify prosecutors of violations by media outlets, it said.

“It is a step backward that fits into a context of a diminishing freedom of the press,” said Yahya Qalash, a former head of Egypt’s Journalists union. “The danger here is not just to the freedom of the press, but to the survival of journalism as a profession in Egypt.”

The threat of prosecution marks an escalation. The state media and most privately owned TV networks are loyal to el-Sissi and spearheaded by powerful talk show hosts who lavishly praise his policies, cover up failures and demonize critics.