Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has warned newspaper editors not to press for freedom of speech and other rights.
Sisi, the likely winner of the election later this month, made the statement during a meeting with editors of the country’s major newspapers on Thursday, saying demands for greater freedom jeopardised national security.
, it is possible to do that without exposing it.”]
The former military chief, who stepped down from his position in March so that he could run for president, urged editors not to “scare people” or breed “scepticism”.
He said the press should help rally people behind the “strategic” goal of “preserving the Egyptian state”, adding that “there should be a balance between the practice and the freedoms and national security”.
Sisi also told the editors not to press for dramatic reforms in state institutions by exposing corruption or other problems and to give officials time to do their jobs.
“Give officials a chance for, say, four months,” he said. “If you have information or a subject you need to whisper in the ear [of officials], it is possible to do that without exposing it.”
He told the editors that, after years of instability that have gutted the economy, Egypt “cannot bear” more uneasiness.
“Our problem is that we call up images of Western democracies that have been stable for hundreds of years and drop them into our reality,” Sisi said, adding that it could take “20 or 25 years to reach a stage of complete democracy”.
Sisi’s comments, which aired on a private network on Thursday, came after months of government crackdowns on journalists and others who have been accused of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt now considers to be a “terrorist” organisation.
In April, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 alleged Brotherhood members to death and confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters who were previously condemned.
Three Al Jazeera English journalists, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy have also been incarcerated in Egypt’s Tora prison for 131 days. Abdullah Elshamy, a correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, has been held without trial for 267 days.
Greste, Mohamed and Fahmy face charges of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial has been adjourned until May 15.
Al Jazeera rejects all charges and accusations against its staff and insists that the journalists were put in prison for doing their jobs.