The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s “strict” line towards foreign media coverage on Egypt continued on Saturday, with the ministry spokesperson quarrelling with the New York Times’ Egypt correspondent over a critical report.
On his official Twitter account, spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid criticised the Times’ David Kirkpatrick’s recent reporting on formerly imprisoned, and formerly half-Egyptian, US national Mohamed Soltan. Abu Zeid described the report as a “one-sided” story that “raises questions regarding the credibility of the New York Times”.
The story featured Soltan’s account of the beating and mistreatment he was subject to while imprisoned, before he was deported to the US after a long-standing hunger strike, a life in prison sentence, and the renouncing of his Egyptian citizenship.
Abu Zeid stated that the report only featured the activist’s version of events, causing an imbalance in the reporting. The Times’ journalist responded saying that the Ministry of Interior was contacted for the story but never responded before the publishing deadline. The spokesman and the journalist then went on to argue about the deadline’s sufficiency for a response.
A source at the ministry told Daily News Egypt that the newly appointed spokesman Abu Zeid is trying to follow a “strict” line regarding foreign media reporting in Egypt.
“He wants the ‘foreign media’ reporting to be fair and balanced,” the source said.
On 13 August, the ministry expressed, in a statement, disappointment at a CNN story on the Croatian national who was beheaded in Egypt by the militant Islamists.
The statement accused the US news network of “casting doubts” on Egypt’s bid to combat terrorism, rather than “providing support and constructive contributions at this critical time”.
The ministry doesn’t stand alone in closely monitoring foreign media; rather it is accompanied by an agency with a director who believes that the performance of Egyptian diplomacy is unsatisfying.
In July, it was announced that the State Information Service (SIS) is to launch Fact Check Egypt, an office with a mission to “fact check media reports about Egypt and publish reports about [their] findings”.
The office began its work following the wide-scale militant attack on 1 July in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid, which left more than 20 soldiers dead. It sent foreign media news outlets e-mails that demanded the publishing of corrections for their reports that contradicted the army’s figures about the terrorist operations.
The state’s efforts to discipline media were crowned with a new ant-terrorism law that specifies hefty fines for “promoting false news”, for contradicting the Ministry of Defence statements on terrorism and counter-terrorism operations.