Meeting editors of prominent Egyptian newspapers on Sunday, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi spoke about the increase in prices and the “conspiracies” facing Egypt.
In comments confirmed by Al-Shorouk editor Emad Hussien, Al-Sisi added he “wished” Al-Jazeera journalists had not been put in jail, and that instead they should have been deported.
Al-Sisi also warned of “internal and external conspiracies facing Egypt,” according to Hussien, and drew parallels with the Anglo-French partition of the Middle East following dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. “There are parties that do not want Egypt to succeed, but I assure you, Egypt will succeed.”
Egyptian newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted him as saying that “the sentencing of several journalists had very negative effects.”
The three Al-Jazeera journalists were sentenced to between seven and ten years in prison, charged with defaming Egypt and aiding a terrorist organisation. While one of the journalists, Peter Greste, is Australian, Mohamed Fahmy is Canadian-Egyptian and Baher Mohamed is Egyptian. Four other Egyptians in the same trial were sentenced to seven years alongside the Al-Jazeera staff.
During a recent televised speech at a military graduation ceremony, Al-Sisi said that Egyptian authorities had to respect the independence of the judiciary, adding: “We will not interfere in judicial rulings.”
Since 30 June 2013, Egypt has seen a “sharp deterioration of human rights,” according to a statement released by Amnesty International on 3 July.
In the meeting, Al-Sisi asked the editors to “strongly support him,” and asked that media outlets be his “partners in the battle to save Egypt.”
Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index ranked Egypt 159th out of 180 countries. A number of other Egyptian journalists are currently held in detention, including freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known professionally as Shawkan. A number have also been killed in clashes between protestors and Egyptian security forces.
Al-Sisi also commented on the recent increase in fuel prices, saying the economic policies the state is currently undertaking are “necessary” to “build a strong state”.
Since his inauguration less than a month ago, Al-Sisi adopted several economic measures including tax and wage reforms, increasing prices, and cutting subsidies on fuel and electricity. Food prices are expected to rise by 20% after the fuel subsidy cut.
“If we hadn’t taken these decisions, everything we have achieved since 30 June would have been lost,” he said.
Al-Sisi previously claimed in a speech he gave on 30 June that economic success can be achieved in two years with “sacrifice” from the Egyptian people.