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Reuters pulls report on Egypt election fraud after 'arrest threat' amid media crackdown Open in fullscreen

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Reuters pulls report on Egypt election fraud after 'arrest threat' amid media crackdown

Sisi swept to a second term with 97 percent of valid votes [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 April, 2018

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International news agency Reuters has withdrawn a report on widespread electoral fraud during last week's presidential election after authorities threatened to take legal action.
International news agency Reuters has withdrawn a report on widespread electoral fraud in Egypt during last week's presidential election after authorities threatened to take legal action.

The wire service took the article off its website on Thursday – a day after it was published – after the head of the country's State Information Service [SIS] made an "implicit arrest threat", The New Arab has learned.

A senior source in Reuters said SIS head Diaa Rashwan phoned the news agency to make the arrest warning, which led to the report being retracted amid a heavy crackdown on media during the election.

The article, which can still be viewed on various news websites, accused state institutions of vote buying by encouraging civil servants to vote with cash incentives in a bid to boost voter turnout.

It also said that lawmakers, private businesses and supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were involved in offering electoral bribes such as boxes of groceries.

The SIS said in a statement on Thursday that Reuters had retracted the "flawed" report after Rashwan contacted the news agency's offices in London and New York.

"The retract decision… is considered an acknowledgment by the agency of the invalidity of the content of the reports," the statement said.

State-owned daily al-Ahram said on Sunday that Egypt's top media regulator had fined two local outlets over election coverage that had detailed electoral fraud.

The Supreme Council for Media Regulation fined newspaper al-Masry al-Youm for a front-page story on state institutions "mobilising" people to take part in the election.

The regulator also fined news website Masr al-Arabia over a report, which cited a New York Times story that had similarly highlighted widespread vote buying by authorities.

Sisi swept to a second term with 97 percent of valid votes, official results showed on Monday, dominating an election that saw him face no serious rivals after any serious contenders were either arrested, sidelined or withdrew from the race.

Read also: Egypt's election produces surprise runner-up: Mohamed Salah 

The head of the election authority Lasheen Ibrahim said at a press conference that the turnout was 41.05 percent of the almost 60 million registered voters, down from the 2014 vote that saw Sisi claim the presidency.

Ibrahim said 92.73 percent of the votes were valid from the roughly 24 million cast, while almost two million ballots were spoiled – a sign of popular anger towards the virtual one-horse race.

Sisi's sole rival and an erstwhile supporter, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, won 2.92 percent of the valid votes, Ibrahim said.

Egyptian authorities expelled British journalist Bel Trew in February over accusation she had broke the law by conducting interviews without a press permit.

Egypt has often detained, jailed and prosecuted journalists under Sisi, who led the military's 2013 overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, after mass protests against his one-year divisive rule.

Advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt as 161 out of 180 countries on their 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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