Egypt's prosecutor urges action against 'false news'

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s public prosecutor has told state prosecutors to take legal action against media outlets found to be publishing “false news, statements and rumors,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement by Nabil Sadek followed strong official criticism this week of some foreign media coverage in Egypt, where authorities have in the past few months blocked scores of local news sites.

The prosecutor said media outlets should be monitored and Egyptian authorities involved with regulating media should also report any “violations of media and press ethics” to the public prosecutor.

The order comes a day after Egypt’s foreign press center called for officials and prominent individuals to boycott the British Broadcasting Corporation after a report on human rights it said was “flagrantly fraught with lies.”

“[The decision comes] in light of recent attempts by the forces of evil to undermine the safety and security of the nation by broadcasting and spreading lies,” the prosecutor’s statement said.

The BBC report stirred controversy when a young woman it described as having been disappeared by security forces was interviewed on Monday on a talk show and denied the claim.

The BBC said after the boycott call that it stands by the “integrity of our reporting teams.”

Reuters could not independently verify the woman’s claim or the contents of the BBC report.

Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticized the BBC and other media outlets for “relying on fabricated sources for political purposes,” according to a Twitter post from the ministry’s spokesman.

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

A high-profile politician and former presidential candidate was arrested this month after he gave an interview critical of Sisi to Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based channel banned in Egypt.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Eric Knecht; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Giles Elgood