Al Jazeera has condemned a claim by President Sisi that its journalists are activists rather than impartial observers. The network has also strongly defended its coverage of an airstrike by Egypt in Libya last month, after Sisi said it had fabricated footage of dead children. Al Jazeera had strongly proven the authenticity of the footage at the time.
Sisi’s comments were made to a group of visiting African journalists, when their first question was about the ongoing case of the two Al Jazeera journalists currently being retried in his country.
Sisi said: “The Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt had turned into activists instead of objective journalists. Look at what they reported about our intervention in Libya against the ISIS for killing 21 Egyptian (Coptic Christians). They went and picked a picture they took in Syria and claimed that was Libya as a result of our air strikes on the ISIS positions. They claimed we had killed children and women. Egypt is not going to tolerate this …. We are working on the constitutional review to address some of these issues.”
Al Jazeera had aired one report of children killed by airstrikes in Libya since Egypt’s intervention. The February 16 Al Jazeera Arabic report included
footage of children killed by Egyptian airstrikes in Darna. Despite false accusations of inaccurate reporting by Egyptian media, all witnesses of the attack verified the authenticity of the Al Jazeera report.
Al Jazeera spokesperson Osama Saeed said that claiming Al Jazeera would fake footage of dead children was a “shocking” accusation.
“Sisi’s attack on Al Jazeera’s factual reporting is a poor and misguided attempt to draw attention away from the facts of the ongoing retrial of our journalists in Egypt. Before their arrests, Baher and Mohamed helped produce our accurate, balanced and comprehensive journalism in Egypt. All the work they were involved in is available to view online. The president has previously said that he wished this case had never arisen, and recently promised to free Baher and Mohamed. Rather than make misleading and false claims regarding Al Jazeera’s coverage, the president’s efforts should be concentrated on ending this miscarriage of justice.”
The next retrial hearing is tomorrow. The previous two court sessions were adjourned quickly after prosecution witnesses failed to appear, a delay that has been criticized. Al Jazeera has communicated to its journalists to continue to concentrate on the case and to forgo any public comments on the case that may harm the ongoing retrial.
Sisi’s full interview via New Vision : Egypt is working to strengthen African roots and ties