State Information Service head accuses media outlets and rights organizations of ‘evasiveness’ in labelling terrorism

Media outlets and human rights organizations were accused of being “evasive” by head of the State Information Service (SIS) Diaa Rashwan on Saturday for what he called their avoidance of the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” in their coverage of armed militant attacks in the country.

During a televised press conference, Rashwan asserted that the Friday attack on Rawda mosque in North Sinai should be seen as a warning to international media outlets and human rights organizations that “continually avoid calling terrorism what it is, and a reminder that there is no longer an excuse to use ambiguous terms such as armed insurgency, political violence, assailants or armed militants.”

On Friday afternoon, dozens of armed militants attacked a mosque in the Rawda village, home to the Jaririya Sufi order, one of the largest Sufi orders in North Sinai. The mosque targeted on Friday is one of the main mosques affiliated with the order.

The death toll rose to 305, including 27 children, while another 128 individuals were injured, according to figures released by the public prosecution.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Rashwan has raised objections regarding coverage of attacks in the Egyptian press previously on several occasions. Most recently, Rashwan criticised media coverage of the October 20 attack on security personnel near the Wahat Road, 135 km outside of Giza, when there was a discrepancy in the death toll among police figures.

News of the attack near Wahat started to trickle in at midday on Friday, October 20. In the absence of official statements regarding the attack, Egyptian news websites and foreign agencies started to report on the clashes between militants and security forces. Most cited what they referred to as “security sources,” while others cited news agencies like Reuters.

The first reports put the death toll at three, but the figures quickly and continuously increased. At 10 pm on Friday night, the Interior Ministry finally issued a statement on the attack, but did not include any casualty figures. Egyptian and foreign news websites continued to cite “security sources,” which, by midnight, reported the death toll at over 50. The BBC reported that it was told that 53 officers and conscripts had been killed, while Reuters cited three sources as saying that at least 52 had died.

It was not until 8 pm on Saturday, October 21 that the Interior Ministry released a second statement, in which it announced the death of 16 police officers and 15 militants, and that one police officer was missing.

The SIS statement not only condemned foreign agencies for the figures they reported, but also criticized the language used in their news coverage.

At the time, Rashwan raised the same criticisms as those brought up during the Saturday conference, as he criticized the BBC for using the phrase “individuals that were referred to as terrorists” when quoting the Interior Ministry’s statement, arguing that the phrasing indicates that the broadcaster does not concur with the ministry’s classification of the assailants as “terrorists.” The statement also criticized Reuters for using the term “militants” — which has positive connotations, according to Rashwan — as opposed to “terrorists.”

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