Egypt lashes out at 'suspiciously funded' NYT over critical reports
Ali Abdel-Aal, Egypt's parliament speaker, accused the NYT of anti-Egyptian bias, suggesting it was being financed by certain Arab rulers.
This is a possible allusion to Qatar, currently being blockaded by four Arab countries, including Sisi's Egypt.
In a parliament session on Monday, Abdel-Aal said the NYT was deliberately running "fake news" to "topple the Egyptian state", at the behest of the leader of a "small Arab state". During the same session, another MP threatened to sue the paper.
A New York Times article said the paper had obtained recordings of an Egyptian intelligence officer directing talk show hosts to play down Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In the recording, the agend allegedly says that the Palestinians should content themselves with a capital in Ramallah.
Egypt, which has a dismal human rights and press freedom record, has often sparred with US-based newspapers over critical reports. The new controversy comes ahead of fresh presidential elections slated for March, expected to produce a new term for the general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
On Sunday, Sisi's only serious competitor, former Egyptian premier Ahmed Shafiq, announced he will not stand in the 2018 presidential elections, reversing a pledge to challenge Sisi at the polls, who is widely expected to win in the first round of voting.
One of his lawyers, speaking to The New York Times, accused the government of forcing him to drop out of the presidential race, a claim denied by his party spokesman.
"Shafiq was not subject to pressure and he does not accept this," Khalid al-Awwami, a spokesman of the Egyptian Patriotic Movement, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
"He has made his decision with complete conviction," he said.
The ex-prime minister had announced his plans to compete for the presidency in a 29 November video from the UAE, stating that it seemed the country needed "new blood" to face its current "many problems in all aspects of life".
But after angering his Emirati hosts by claiming in a video, first aired by Al Jazeera, that he was being prevented from leaving the country. His aides said he was deported to Egypt on 2 December.
After arriving back in his homeland, Shafiq disappeared from view for around 24 hours and believed under house arrest. He reemerged to tell a talk show host that he was reconsidering his bid for the presidency.