The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed grave concern over efforts by the Egyptian government to hinder the free flow of news and information in the wake of recent protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule.

The State Information Service, a government body that accredits foreign correspondents in Egypt, issued a veiled threat to the media on September 22. It reportedly said in a statement that it was “monitoring” coverage of the protests to ensure that the media abides by “professional codes”. The statement also cautioned that social media should not considered as a source of news because of “fake accounts and fabrication”.

The warning came just days after the government several media websites, including BBC Arabic, Al Hurra, and ARIJ, after the protests started on September 20.

“The statement is a clear threat to the foreign media covering the latest protests in the country and a blatant attempt to prevent the flow of critical news”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “President al-Sisi has effectively silenced the national press and now he is going after the foreign journalists. The message is clear: foreign journalists’ accreditation may be withdrawn if they do not tow the government’s line”.

The protests against President al-Sisi’s government that started on Friday, September 20, are believed to have been sparked by an online campaign launched by an Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Ali, living in self-imposed exile in Spain. His videos claiming widespread corruption in the government and urging people to protest have gone viral. Others have followed Ali and posted their own videos, with their faces covered, describing their own experience of corruption.

On September 22, the security forces also arrested the brother of Wael Ghonim, an activist who lives in exile in the US and was instrumental in spreading the 2011 protests for democracy in 2011.

Over three dozen journalists are currently jailed in Egypt, including Al Sayed Mohamed Omar Toufic, also known as Ismail Alexandrani, Moataz Wadnan and Mahmoud Hussein of Al Jazeera. In many cases, their families are afraid to speak up because of the fear of reprisal.

Egypt has systematically denied journalists rights to due process and a fair trial, holding them for years without official charges and denying them the right to legal counsel.