U.S. news network CBS has broadcast an interview with Egypt’s military dictator President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi despite a request by the Egyptian government not to air the show.
During the station’s flagship “60 Minutes” current affairs show, el-Sisi told host Scott Pelly that Egypt was militarily cooperating with Israel in the Sinai region, whilst denying the detention of thousands of political prisoners.
Prior to the broadcasting of the interview on Sunday, CBS said the information shared by el-Sisi was “not the kind of news his government wanted broadcast”.
The network said: “The 60 Minutes team was contacted by the Egyptian ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired”.
However, they did not mention which part of the president’s comments the Egyptian government objected to.
Under Sisi, Egypt has been cooperating with Israel in the demilitarised desert peninsula region of Sinai, as part of a US-brokered 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, but where Egyptian forces now operate freely.
Publicly acknowledging this controversial “cooperation” with Israel can be a sensitive and damaging issue in Egypt.
When the CBS presenter asked whether the cooperation was the closest that Egypt has had with Israel, Sisi replied: “That is correct. The Air Force sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that’s why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis.”
Last year, the Egyptian army denied media reports that it was working alongside Israel in the Sinai region against ISIS fighters.
When Pelly went on to ask why Egypt had not managed to defeat “the estimated 1,000 terrorists” after receiving $1bn in U.S. military aid, el-Sisi responded by saying, “Why hasn’t the U.S. eliminated the terrorists in Afghanistan after 17 years and spending a trillion dollars?”
Egypt’s military dictator was also questioned about the massacre of more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in 2013 while he was defence minister, and whether he gave that order.
El-Sisi told Pelly: “Are you closely following the situation in Egypt?
“From where do you get your information?
“There were thousands of armed people in the sit-in for more than 40 days.
“We tried every peaceful means to disperse them.”
Citing a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the CBS anchor then asked whether armoured personnel carriers, bulldozers, ground forces, snipers, police and army personnel attacking the protest encampment was “necessary”.
El-Sisi replied by dismissing HRW as a reliable source of information.
He said: “There were police personnel and they were trying to open peaceful corridors for the people to go safely to their homes.”
El-Sisi also denied reports from international human rights group who have estimated that Egypt has imprisoned up to 60,000 political prisoners.
Sweating from his forehead, el-Sisi said: “I don’t know where they got that figure. I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt.
“Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology we have to intervene regardless of their numbers.”
The mass incarceration of political activists, scholars and journalists is part of the wider crackdown on dissent, which includes tighter restrictions of the media, placing draconian policies on human rights groups and undoing the freedoms attained by the 2011 uprising against Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak.