European NGOs and media outlets are deliberately spreading false information in regards to the human rights situation in the country, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday, according to Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The comments were made during a meeting between Shoukry and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on the last day of the World Health Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The foreign minister claimed that Egypt was committed to safeguarding its human rights record and argued that Western organisations were ignoring government strategies aimed at promoting freedom, women’s rights and the release of prisoners.
“I call on these entities not to go beyond misleading information on the internal conditions inside Egypt,” he said.
The comments came a week after Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and Canada issued a statement critical of the detention of Egyptian human rights lawyer Ibrahim Metwaly. Metwaly was helping investigate the murder of the Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD student whose body was discovered in a ditch on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital in 2016 showing signs of extensive torture.
The foreign ministry protested the criticism from the five Western countries, terming it “a blatant and unacceptable interference in domestic affairs and the work of the judiciary”.
The Egyptian Human Rights Committee denied the allegations, claiming that no political prisoners had ever reported incidents of torture. The Foreign Ministry also accused the NGO of bias, questioning its funding and alleging it received support from the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated a terrorist organisation.
Two weeks later, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told US officials in New York that human rights should not be judged from a Western perspective, arguing that Egypt had taken numerous measures to ensure the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens.
Cairo has been criticised by both local and international parties for its human rights abuses, a matter which the authorities routinely deny, asserting instead that it “supports freedom of expression”.
Activists have long documented Egypt’s increasing disregard for the rule of law since the military coup of 2013 that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. There are some 60,000 political prisoners in the country; the government also persecutes human rights campaigners and their organisations are subject to severe limitations.