The Foreign Ministry lashed out on Friday at a report by CNN on the Croatian hostage beheaded by the Islamic State-affiliated militant group Province of Sinai last week, deeming it biased coverage.
In a strongly worded statement, the ministry said that the report included incorrect and misleading information and lacks basic objectivity. Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid explained in the statement that “The report spoke of the spread of chaos and terrorism and the absence of the state’s power in Egypt in a way that is extremely sarcastic, and which is far removed from objectivity, professionalism and honesty.”
The report described the Sinai Peninsula as “lawless,” and that the kidnapping of the hostage from the Western Desert, far away from Cairo, indicates that the Province of Sinai’s reach now extends far beyond Sinai.
“The Egyptian government, despite repeated pledges to wipe out the ISIS presence in the country — and devoting immense resources to the task — seems to be making little progress in that endeavor. It is up against a well-organized and militarily sophisticated adversary, perhaps the most effective ISIS affiliate beyond Iraq and Syria,” the report asserted.
The ministry’s statement rejected CNN’s claims by explaining that the areas that witness terrorist activities in Sinai do not exceed five percent of the peninsula, arguing that all foreign tourists live peacefully in the rest of Sinai.
“It is puzzling to see this incident being used to prove the absence of the state’s power in Egypt, while similar incidents in Western societies are not analyzed in the same way,” the statement added, specifically referring to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France and the Boston Marathon bombings in the US.
The statement added that the fact that CNN chose to “blame the victim instead of the real culprits” is unfortunate.
However, the kidnapping a foreign national is an alarming sign for international media, and the incident reveals a potential threat to all expatriates living in the country. The report showed concern for the thousands of foreigners who work in Egypt, who are now assessing their situation as well as that of their companies.
“These companies will likely need to reassess security arrangements — even in areas until now thought to be free of ISIS operatives. That’s not a favorable environment for foreign investment,” CNN said.
A history of hostility toward foreign media
The ministry’s attack on CNN on Friday is the not first time Egyptian authorities have slammed international media. CNN, along with many other foreign media outlets, have been heavily criticized in the two years ago following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi and his replacement by a military-backed government. Since the summer of 2013, international media coverage of Egyptian politics has been seen at home as pro-Muslim Brotherhood.
International media has been quick to call Morsi’s ouster a “military coup,” while Egyptian authorities continue to argue that his ouster was driven by popular demand, after millions of Egyptians participated in the June 30 protests.
The conflict reached its peak after the dispersal of Rabea al-Adaweya protest camp in August 2013. The dispersal’s aftermath witnessed a wave of brief arrests and assaults against foreign journalists in the field, forcing many journalists to either leave the country or report from their own offices.
Following the dispersal, former Presidential Advisor Mostafa Hegazy criticized foreign media for not covering attacks against churches, allegedly carried out by disgruntled Islamists.
This hostility escalated when Egyptian authorities arrested three Al Jazeera English reporters on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and spreading false news in December 2013. The journalists included former bureau chief and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.
The three journalists have been handed down sentences ranging from seven to 10 years, before the verdicts were overturned and a retrial was granted. Greste has since been deported, with Fahmy renouncing his Egyptian citizenship in anticipation of a similiar deportation. Both Fahmy and Mohamed now await a final verdict, which is scheduled for August 29.
The Egyptian State Information Service, a government body that represents Egypt’s official public relations agency, has reacted to international media backlash by launching “Fact Check Egypt” (FCE).
The initiative aims to monitor the performance of international media by “fact-checking” news reports about the country, producing reports and issuing requests to media outlets to correct any alleged innaccuracies.
On its Twitter account, the FEC said that it “will try to reveal how some journalists deviate from the standards and media ethics of their own newspapers.”