Egypt Demands That CBS Interview With President Sisi Not Air

Egypt has demanded that CBS not air an impending broadcast of a 60 Minutes interview with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who had willingly sat down with Scott Pelley in New York for the segment. 

According to CBS, "The 60 Minutes team was contacted by the Egyptian Ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired," however the network was not swayed, but affirmed that "The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, January 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, via Reuters

The rare interview with Sisi, who came to power as head of the military junta that unseated Muslim Bortherhood president Mohamed Morsi in a coup d'état after popular protests gripped the country, spends considerable time on Sisi's human rights record. It is likely this segment of the as yet unpublished full interview that most angered the Egyptians. 

A CBS preview of the 60 Minutes program highlights perhaps one of the controversial moments which may have led to the Egyptian government demand, wherein Sisi is pressed over political prisoners under an increasingly autocratic regime:

Human Rights Watch estimates el-Sisi, a former army general, is holding 60,000 political prisoners. "I don't know where they got that figure. I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt. Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology we have to intervene regardless of their numbers," he tells Pelley.

Related questions on his abysmal human rights record apparently led to the attempt at Egyptian government censorship, per the CBS statement:

But other questions, including jailing his opponents to maintain his regime and the massacre of 800 civilians by Egypt when he was Defense Minister were not the kind of news his government wanted broadcast

An intro teaser to the segment focuses on the plight of American citizen Mohamed Soltan, who spent nearly two years in an Egyptian prison after his arrest while taking pictures of a 2013 masscre of protesters at the hands of police. Soltan said, "I was targeted because I had a camera. I had a phone and I was tweeting."

Preview of the 60 Minutes interview, which CBS says it plans to air Sunday evening, despite Egypt's pressuring the network.

Soltan alleged he was tortured while held in Sisi's political prisons before the Obama administration secured his release. During the 60 Minutes interview, Sisi denied these and other allegations, blaming prior unrest and violence on the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. 

Another interesting series of statements pre-released ahead of Sunday's air date are related to Israel. President Sisi said his country is working with Israel against ISIS  — something sure to be deeply controversial among his conservative Muslim-majority domestic population

Asked if this cooperation with Israel was the closest ever between two enemies that once were at war, he responds, "That is correct…We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis." The Egyptians are battling an estimated 1,000 ISIS-affiliated terrorists on its Sinai peninsula that they have allowed the Israelis to attack by air. CBS

The United States has also long seen Egypt as central to both regional counter-terror efforts and in ensuring Arab peace with Israel, but in mid-2017 the Trump administration cut or delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Egypt over citing human rights concerns.

Historically over the past number of years the US has transferred about $1.5 billion annually to the Egyptian government. The US-Egypt relationship has largely been forged around support for the country's powerful military and intelligence bureaucracy.