Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) has called on Egyptian academics and intellectuals to boycott the BBC until the global broadcaster apologises for “biased coverage” against President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. “The BBC promotes the lies of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group,” claimed the SIS in a statement issued on Sunday. It demanded that the news site should issue a formal retraction of an article posted on the corporation’s Arabic website about renewed social media protests against Al-Sisi’s government.
The SIS further objected to the fact that three videos used in the article were taken from two Turkey-based television presenters, who it accuses of being affiliated to Islamist groups. The statement claimed that the article’s reports of protests against Al-Sisi were fabricated to paint the government in a negative light.
“This violates universal professional codes of conduct, as the BBC’s Cairo office with its dozens of correspondents nationwide should have tried to actually investigate whether the content of these videos was authentic,” insisted the SIS. “The BBC’s failure to take this necessary step before publishing the article seems intentional in order to legitimise the allegations of media outlets affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organisation.”
Officials at the SIS also claimed that the article was biased against the President of the Republic, citing the fact that details of the protests against him took up 16 lines of the article, while statements by his supporters were covered in only six lines.
The SIS said on Sunday that it would summon the broadcaster’s regional head to its headquarters. The BBC’s Cairo bureau chief Safaa Faisal told AFP that her office was “aware of the complaint now and we will engage positively.”
In March 2018, the Egyptian authorities slammed the BBC for another damning report entitled “The Shadow Over Egypt” which included interviews with families of alleged victims of torture and enforced disappearances. The report highlighted the case of a young woman, Zubeida, whose mother told of her repeated abduction and rape by security forces.
Later, a woman who alleged to be Zubeida appeared on an Egyptian TV show denying the content of the BBC article. Her mother was subsequently arrested and charged with spreading false news; her two lawyers, including the head of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, were forcibly disappeared.
At the same time, a lawsuit filed by lawyer Mohammed Hamed Salem also sought to have the BBC’s offices closed, claiming that the story was an attempt to destabilise the country and deliberately distort Egypt’s image. However, in June last year, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters rejected the petition, saying it had no jurisdiction to close the Egypt branch or withdraw the broadcaster’s licence.
Rights groups accuse President Al-Sisi’s government of a sweeping crackdown on journalists and dissent. Scores of news agencies have been closed down, and hundreds of reporters have been arrested, accused of attempting to destabilise the country.