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EGYPT’S beleaguered President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has warned of “foreign conspiracies” as pressure mounts on him to resign.
In the midst of a crackdown on anti-government protests, the autocratic ruler has blamed social media and fake news for trying to arouse suspicion and destroy the Egyptian people’s trust in their national institutions.
“In recent decades the forms and methods of war have changed to affect the morale of people and to reach the citizen in his home through modern means of communication and media,” he said.
Mr Sissi accused “outsiders” of seeking to portray Egypt as the enemy and pressing for regime change. But he said he was confident that he would be victorious because “the Egyptian people can distinguish with their good hearts between honesty and slander.
“In a war that depends on deception, lies and rumours, victory will depend on the consciousness of every citizen, and on his concepts, ideas and beliefs,” he said.
More than 3,000 people, including journalists and politicians, have been detained by Egyptian forces since small-scale demonstrations started on September 20 according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom (ECRF).
Protests erupted after property investor Mohamed Ali posted videos on Facebook exposing corruption in the armed forces and the use of public money on Mr Sissi’s vanity projects. He is splashing out on huge presidential palaces while a third of Egypt’s population live below the poverty line.
The security forces have been patrolling the streets of the capital Cairo and other major cities, poised to quell any signs of unrest.
They are focusing on wi-fi hotspots and it is reported that officers are forcing people to reveal deleted apps on their phones and checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Of the more than 3,000 people detained, just 57 have been released, the ECRF said, while hundreds have reported being tortured while in custody. The commission said that the international community has failed to speak out against the crackdown.
Last month officers in the army called for the ousting of Mr Sissi and declared that they would defend citizens if they took to the streets.
But street protests have simmered down in the face of the oppression, while the President has sought to appease working-class Egyptians by reinstating subsidies for staples such as rice and pasta for 1.8 million people.
However, opposition forces have described the moves as “cosmetic,” warning that deep fractures remain.
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