The head of the State Information Service (SIS) assembled a group of predominately foreign journalists on Wednesday to urge them to increase their reportage of the government’s angle, following days in which Egypt has been scrutinised in the world’s media spotlight.
Chairman of the SIS – the authority responsible for disseminating information related to the state – Ambassador Salah Abdel Sadek told the meeting of correspondents that their “coverage of the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution failed to convey the terrorism that we face”.
The event was an attempt by different branches of the government to tackle much of the negative commentary and PR Egypt received in response to its handling of demonstrations surrounding the revolution’s fourth anniversary.
Egypt made international headlines since Saturday for deadly encounters between protesters and security forces. At least 23 people have officially been reported dead following clashes, with over 150 arrested. The heavy security response to public unrest brought the critical scrutiny of the United Nations, United States, and the European Union, amongst others, who saw that the force employed by the government was disproportionate to the circumstance.
However, Abdel Sadek told the conference: “We do not want to tell anyone what to cover and what not to cover but the failure to cover the situation accurately is a source of discomfort to us.”
A public relations representative from the Ministry of Interior told the assembled journalists that the Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of anniversary and called for attacks on vital public services, like trains, buses and other transportation, as well as electricity facilities, gas services, and public property. The purpose of the calls and subsequent attacks were, according to the interior ministry representative, to make people angry so that they would be frustrated with the government and join them. Egypt’s security thus responded to any possible disturbance in light of these threats, the representative continued.
An explosives campaign was the other method the Brotherhood used throughout the country to take advantage of the anniversary. For instance, on Tuesday bombs were placed in front of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya mosque, another outside the German University of Cairo, another in Matariya Square and listed many others across the country. The foreign media’s failure to properly give coverage to such security situations means that their reports “do not reflect reality”, Abdel Sadek said.
Turning to the highly controversial death of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, an activist who was subjected to birdshot wounds when a small commemorative demonstration for the martyrs of the 25 January Revolution was dispersed on Saturday, Abdel Sadek said: “There is nothing to hide.”
“The prosecutor general has called for a probe to the highest level, a real, serious investigation is taking place. He ordered investigators to the scene immediately and had all weapons confiscated. If the probe points towards the police, then they will receive the full punishment. This is something that Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said immediately after the event.”
However, Abdel Sadek maintained the implied government line that those responsible are not security forces, saying: “Analysis of shooting injuries from recent days has revealed that many came from 5.6mm calibre guns. The whole of the security forces, both the police and army, do not use this calibre of weapon. Where did the bullets come from? Moreover, in our evidence from the past few days, we have footage of shotguns.”
“And let me ask you this, would you believe that 42 people gathering would require being dispersed with shotguns and tear gas?”
However, Sadek said he could not comment further on the case of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh because the Prosecutor General has ordered a gag during an investigation into the issue.
Abdel Sadek concluded by stating: “The Egyptian citizens have become the main pillar of the security apparatus. They are prepared to follow the roadmap to the end, whatever the costs are”.
“Egypt is facing domestic, regional and international terrorism. We are willing to do whatever it takes to fight it.”