Sisi says 'fake news' main threat to Arab countries
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned on Sunday that Arab countries were vulnerable to imploding from rumours aimed at spreading "instability", in what appears an effort to deflect criticism of his regime and justify his harsh crackdown on dissenters.
Speaking at a military ceremony graduation ceremony in Cairo, Sisi said his government had detected over 21,000 false rumours over a period of three months.
"The real danger is blowing up countries from within. Rumours, acts of terrorism, loss of hope and feeling of frustration, all these work in a grand network aimed at one objective, only one objective, and that is to move people to destroy their country," Sisi said, according to Reuters."
"Destroying our countries will not happen unless it came from within. We must be alert and pay attention to what is being spun against us in secret," he added.
Sisi also said that while he understood the economic hardships of ordinary Egyptians, nothing justifies "causing chaos and destroying the state".
Egyptians have criticised Sisi's government over rising the rising cost of fuel, electricity and public transport as part of IMF-backed reforms to lift government subsidies.
Last week, the Egyptian parliament approved the final reading of a bill that would allow authorities to monitor social media users with the aim of combatting "fake news".
Under the new law, people whose social media accounts have more than 5,000 followers could be placed under the supervision of Egypt's Supreme Council for Media Regulations.
The law would also encompass websites, blogs and personal accounts.
Parliament also introduced a new article stating that anyone who imports satellite transmitters outside official channels, such as the state-run media authority, could be jailed for five years.
Domestic and international human rights groups regularly criticise violations of freedom of expression by President Sisi's government.
More than 30 journalists are currently behind bars in Egypt, which ranks 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Sisi has overseen a severe crackdown on dissent since the military overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamad Morsi in 2013.
Human rights groups estimate that as many as 60,000 political prisoners languish in Egyptian jails, significantly more than under Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship.