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Egypt’s Top Prosecutor Monitoring Media Ahead of Elections

People and vehicles are seen near a poster of Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for the upcoming presidential election, which reads, "Yes, All of us with you for Egypt," in Cairo, Feb. 28, 2018.

Egypt’s top state prosecutor has ordered his staff to closely monitor all news and social media outlets and take action against any they deem to be “hurting national interests.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek said the order comes “in light of recently observed attempts by the ‘forces of evil’ to undermine the security and safety of the country through publishing lies and fake news through different media outlets and social media.”

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, the statement said.

Government crackdown

Sadek’s directive is part of a larger government crackdown on the media ahead of scheduled presidential elections next month in which President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is running virtually unopposed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a U.S.-based journalism watchdog group, asked Egypt's leaders to “immediately cease their intimidation campaign against independent news outlets, and let journalists report freely.”

“The prosecutor general's latest order means that the Egyptian government is putting its relentless campaign against journalists into writing, as well as stepping up the rhetoric that undermines trust in the independent media,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said from Washington. “If the government is truly conducting free and fair elections next month, then it should show that it has nothing to fear from critical reporting and rescind this order.”

BBC show upsets Egypt

The order comes as the government is demanding that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) retract a story aired over the weekend that mentioned the case of a mother who claimed her daughter was the victim of state-enforced disappearance. The young woman appeared Monday on a local TV station to refute her mother’s claims.

Egypt’s State Information Service, which regulates foreign media in the country, has called on the BBC to retract its story or face a government boycott.

BBC is standing by its reporting.