Egypt's SIS hands BBC 'protest note' over report alleging torture, forced disappearances in Egypt

Ahram Online , Wednesday 7 Mar 2018

SIS Chief Diaa Rashwan (R) hands BBC Cairo bureau chief Safaa Faisal an official protest note during a Cairo meeting (Photo courtesy of SIS)

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) officially handed the BBC's Cairo bureau chief a “protest note” over its controversial recent report on what the latter claimed are cases of torture and forced disappearances of Egyptian opposition members by Egyptian security forces.

In an official statement on Tuesday evening, the SIS said its chief, Diaa Rashwan, handed the BBC's Cairo bureau chief Safaa Faisal the objection note over the report, which included the case of a young Egyptian woman alleged to have been "forcibly disappeared" in Egypt.

The young woman, 25-year-old Zubeida Ibrahim Younis, appeared on an Egyptian private television channel disputing claims that she had been “kidnapped by authorities” and tortured.

During the meeting, Rashwan said the SIS renewed its request for an appropriate apology from the BBC over the “unfounded allegations," which the SIS chief described as falsified.

In an interview last week with TV host Amr Adib on ON satellite channel, Zubeida sat down with her husband Sayed Abdel Azim to refute the contents of the 5,000-word BBC article and accompanying video report, titled The Shadow Over Egypt.

Written by Orla Guerin, the report contains interviews with families of alleged victims of torture and enforced disappearance by security services.

In the footage, Guerin interviews Younis’s mother, Mona Mahmoud, who claimed that her daughter had been apprehended by security forces and tortured in custody.

Mahmoud will be held in custody for 15 days pending investigations into charges including "publishing and broadcasting false news that could harm the country's national interests" and joining an illegal group, a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Rashwan, who also sent a formal letter of objection to BBC headquarters in London, said the broadcasting agency should take necessary professional and administrative measures to correct the report’s mistakes and violations.

According to the SIS statement, the Cairo bureau chief expressed the BBC's appreciation for the dialogue with the SIS head, describing it as a “meaningful."

She expressed her gratitude after Rashwan’s affirmation that freedom of media coverage and the right to obtain information is guaranteed for all accredited media outlets in Egypt, including the BBC, within internationally-set rules.

She said that the BBC will look into all points made in the SIS’s protest note, adding that they will be addressed as soon as possible.

The BBC has come under fire since publishing the report, which has led to the SIS to call on Egyptian officials to boycott the the broadcasting company and abstain from media interviews with its journalists and producers until it has officially apologised and published the SIS's response to its report.

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