Egypt's Sisi says defaming army or police is treason

CAIRO, March 1 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Thursday that any insult by a media organization of the army or police is defamation of the country and treason, rather than freedom of opinion.

Criticism of security institutions is considered off-limits in Egypt.

Rights groups say there is a growing crackdown against political opponents ahead of a presidential vote in March when Sisi will stand for re-election virtually unopposed.

“I want to tell the media ... if someone insults the army or police they’re defaming all Egyptians and that’s not freedom of opinion,” Sisi said in televised remarks.

“Honestly speaking, defaming (the army and police), legally, for me now equals treason,” Sisi said.

The country’s top prosecutor on Wednesday urged action against media outlets found to be publishing “false news” following strong official criticism this week of some foreign media coverage in Egypt.

Egypt’s government press centre called for officials and prominent individuals to boycott the BBC on Tuesday over a report on human rights it said was false.

Egypt’s army launched a major assault on militants in the Sinai peninsula last month aiming to crush an Islamic State insurgency that has targeted security forces and more recently civilians since Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi was ousted in 2013. (Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)