The Egyptian government has launched a new blog to "circumvent the labyrinthine editorial policies of the mainstream international media" after criticizing foreign media coverage of Egyptian politics and terrorist attacks in the country.
The site, Egypt MFA Blog, is written in English and was launched earlier this week. "The aim is to provide a more objective narrative of events in Egypt for those who seek more than just the partial truth," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukrey writes in the first post.
Shoukrey writes that the blog will "seek to accurately represent economic, political and social developments in Egypt, in a timely and interactive manner."
But the underlying message is clear. The Guardian writes:
Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid took a harsher tone in a statement in Arabic, saying the website comes amid “smear media campaigns adopted by some foreign media outlets regarding political, economic and security issues in Egypt.”
The blog's launch comes after the Foreign Ministry sent out notes to the press in July with guidelines on how they should refer to terrorists, in particular suggesting that terrorist groups should not be referred to as religious in any way, even if they have identified themselves as having religious ideology. A CBS News correspondent on the ground tweeted one page of the guidelines:
Human rights and press freedom groups have also condemned anti-terrorism laws introduced this month which go one step further, making it illegal for journalists to contradict official accounts about terrorism, according to Human Rights Watch.
"With this sweeping new decree, Egypt’s president has taken a big step toward enshrining a permanent state of emergency as the law of the land. The government has equipped itself with even greater powers to continue stamping out its critics and opponents under its vague and ever-expanding war on terrorism," said Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The government also arrested three Al Jazeera journalists, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste, in December 2013 on charges of spreading false news and collaborating with the overthrown government affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
They were released on bail earlier this year and their original conviction overturned, but they are awaiting the verdict of a re-trial. Deutsche Welle writes:
While several lawyers DW interviewed expect that the charges against the three journalists may be dropped, the outcome is far from certain: It comes at a time, when Egypt is increasingly cracking down on independent journalism. A record number of journalists are behind bars and an anti-terrorism lawthat former army officer-turned-president, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, recently ratified, stipulates hefty fines for reporting "false" information on terrorist attacks or security operations that contradict official statements.
The government also reacted strongly against a CNN report earlier this month about the alleged killing of a Croatian man by ISIS in Egypt which suggested that security situation in the country is deteriorating.
A statement from the ministry, which CNN ran on its site, began:
The CNN report regarding the reported murder of Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek paints a grim and absurdly distorted image of chaos and rampant terrorism in Egypt. The report makes ridiculous assertions, such as the claim that Sinai is "lawless", or that Daesh's operation in Egypt is the most effective after those in Syria and Iraq.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a report in June which found that the number of journalists in prison in Egypt is at an all-time high. "CPJ research shows that the government of el-Sisi, who was elected president in May 2014, has used the pretext of national security to crack down on human rights, including press freedom," the report says.