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Egypt leak names of media figures allegedly working for Sisi

Alleged leaked audio recording purportedly shows Egypt military directing ten media figures to support Sisi's bid for presidency last year
An image grab from the aired recording by Mekameleen on 19 January, 2015 (YouTube)

A new leaked audio recording allegedly from the office of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has purportedly exposed the names of a number of high profile media figures working for the country's military institution and for Sisi, who at the time had quit the post of army chief to run for presidency.

The recording was aired on Monday night by the Turkey-based Egyptian satellite TV channel Mekameleen, known for its support for former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, the country's first freely-elected president, who was overthrown by the army on 3 July, 2013, following mass protests.  

The channel said the recoding was of a phone conversation - on 1 April, 2014 - between Brigadier General Abbas Kamil, the manager of Sisi's office, and Colonel Ahmad Ali, then the military's spokesman at the Media Production City (MPC), an information and media complex near Cairo. 

During the phone conversation, Kamil is heard instructing Ali on how TV anchors should make the case in supporting Sisi's bid for presidency, asking him: "Are you writing this down?"

The media was allegedly asked to portray Sisi as a man who made great sacrifices for the sake of the Egyptians, and that he does not care nor need the presidency office, but it is rather the people who have insisted that he'd become their leader during those difficult times.

The recording also shows Kamil advising that the media should not be raising doubts about Sisi, but rather put forward positive answers to their own questions.  

"As a former member of the armed forces, and as he is the only candidate whose security is under threat" Sisi has the right to reside at Building Number Six, a special residence for military officials, Kamil allegedly said, adding that "it is they [the media] who should say that" (i.e. not the military).

"We want them [the media] to encourage people" to vote for Sisi, added Kamil, according to the leak. "It doesn't have to be all done today," the voice in the recording is heard to say.

Mekameleen began its programme by airing a previous leak, released by Rassd media outlet in early 2014, showing the then Field Marshal Sisi speaking to selected members of the armed forces on how the military institution should have its own "media arms" to influence press and broadcasting in the country.

Sisi was responding to concerns in military ranks over Egypt's newfound media freedoms following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak as a result of the 25 January, 2011 uprising against his rule.

An image grab from the aired recording by Mekameleen on 19 January, 2015 (YouTube)

Named and shamed

However, the names mentioned in the new recording include both traditional Mubarak supporters in the media as well TV personalities who claim to be backers of the 2011 uprising – all throwing their weight behind Sisi's bid for presidency.

They are: Wael Ibrashi, Ahmed Moussa, Ibrahim Issa, Youssef al-Hussaini, Rolla Kharsa, Naila Amara, Mahmoud Musalam, Osma Kamal, Mahmoud Saad, and Azza Mustafa.

Mekameleen argued that those particular instructions from Sisi's office were carried out almost to the letter by the media on the day and during the next day, showing video snippets of how TV anchors expressed their support for Sisi.

In one clip Ibrahim Issa was shown on al-Tahrir channel telling his audience that long before the presidential 2014 elections, Sisi was given full support by the Egyptian people who see him as their saviour.  

"This means that Sisi did indeed succeed in establishing media arms, which are none other than the names exposed in this most recent leaked audio recording," said the website Arabi21.

At the outset of the recording, Kamil allegedly said that he met Sisi and "there is a point of view that wants our – our – media people in television" to project the military's point of view.  

In one instance, Kamil refers to one of the journalists as "this girl of ours, Azzah Mustafa".

However, other observers argue that the link between the alleged military instructions and the Egyptian media reporting may have been overstretched by Mekameleen.

"Many of these [media] figures were acting in their own best interests and in the interests of their outlets' proprietors," Kal Abraham, a London-based analyst, told MEE.

"If they saw that their interests are best served by Sisi then they needn't wait for instructions from his office on how to spin a story. After all, that is the media's speciality," he added.

Nevertheless, the recordings – if authentic – do appear to reveal a sense of disrespect that the military institution holds for media commentators, including those who are on its side.

"Isn't Mahmoud Saad there? Did I mention that Mahmoud Saad called me? He called saying that he missed me, and wondering if we [the military] were unhappy with him," according to the recoding.

"What did I do? We have an agreement and I am a supporter [of Sisi]", Saad was quoted by Kamil as saying, in the leak.

Kamil then tells Ali that he did not wish to lose Saad prior to the elections, which Sisi won almost two months later, predicting that Saad will turn against them later and promising to deal with him once that happens.

During the recoding, Kamil also told Ali to "talk to that boy, what's his name? Hussaini," in reference to ON TV presenter Youssef al-Hussaini.

Since Morsi's overthrow, a number of recordings allegedly of Sisi have been leaked to the press. The most recent of which was also broadcast by Mekameleen in December, suggesting corruption in Egypt's judiciary.

An earlier leak details a series of dreams by Sisi where he foresaw that he would rule Egypt.