Egypt calls for BBC boycott amid dispute over critical report

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s government press center called on Tuesday for Egyptian officials and prominent individuals to boycott the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) after a report on human rights it said was “flagrantly fraught with lies”.

A man walks past the BBC's New Broadcasting House in London December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The BBC last week published a short documentary and report highlighting what it said were cases of enforced disappearances and torture carried out by security forces since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014.

The report came weeks before Sisi is to stand for re-election virtually unopposed after opponents halted their campaigns and a top challenger was jailed.

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

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “We are aware of the reports about this BBC story on Egyptian TV and of the comments of the head of the State Information Service. We stand by the integrity of our reporting teams.”

Reuters was not able to independently verify the woman’s account.

After the woman’s talk show appearance, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), which runs its foreign press center, called on “all Egyptian officials and sectors of the Egyptian elite wishing to do so, to boycott conducting media interviews and meetings with BBC correspondents and editors until the BBC issues a formal apology.”

SIS also asked that the BBC publish a statement it had prepared “refuting the professional errors and violations as well as the allegations on the situation in Egypt.”

Rights groups say there is a growing crackdown against political opponents ahead of the election, while Egypt has banned scores of local news websites since May.

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