Cairo: Egyptian TV host, Ahmad Mousa, a government loyalist, has drawn flak this week for airing an alleged recording about the police force’s response in a gunbattle in which 16 security personnel were killed.
The audio recording was broadcast on Mousa’s controversial talk show at private television station Sada Al Balad on Saturday night, a day after police fought for hours during a raid on militants in Egypt’s western Desert. Independent sources had put the death toll in the attack at 54.
In the contested recording, an alleged police officer says that security forces had been trapped in the inhospitable terrain by heavily armed terrorists, who singled out officers for execution-style killings.
The Interior Ministry lashed out at the tape, calling it “baseless.”
“Circulating such recordings are aimed at causing confusion and frustration in public opinion and reflects professional irresponsibility,” the ministry said in a statement.
Mousa, known for his links to security agencies, also drew scathing criticism from his colleagues in other broadcasters, accusing him of behaving unprofessionally and demoralising the public. “How can such fabricated things go on air?” said prominent TV host Amr Adeeb.
“We did what terrorists failed to do. We insulted ourselves in a dirty way. The martyr’s blood has been wasted,” Adeeb added angrily.
The incident prompted Egypt’s Media Syndicate to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday. The independent union’s head Hamdi Al Kunaisy said a decision was taken to suspend Mousa’s show pending investigations.
“The law of the syndicate prohibits any media material that infringes the country’s supreme interests and national security considers,” Al Kunaisy added in a press statement.
Mousa’s employer said it would not comply, because the suspension order was not made by a state agency.
However, the pro-government broadcaster quickly removed the disputed recording from its website.
Egypt has witnessed a wave of deadly attacks targeting mainly security forces since the army’s 2013 toppling of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi following enormous protests against his one-year rule.
Most of these attacks, claimed by terrorist Daesh, took place in Egypt’s north Sinai, a hub for armed militants.
There has been no claim of responsibility for Friday’s alleged police ambush that authorities said also left 13 security men injured, and 15 terrorists dead and wounded.
Mousa, who is a journalist in semi-official newspaper Al Ahram, appeared Sunday night on his show and apologised for what he called an “unintentional mistake”.
He attributed the error to overworking.
“I’m a human being and I have been working since Friday, searching for information about this incident. My record in advocating the state institutions, including the army and police, is well-established,” he added apologetically, but without disclosing the source of the controversial recording.
There has been no comment from legal authorities in Egypt on the row.
Mousa’s claim to fame is mostly due to questionable material aired on his night-time show.
In late 2015, he broadcast footage allegedly showing Russian air strikes in Syria, which was soon found to be a video game.
Earlier this year, he outraged rights advocates for broadcasting private phone conversations purportedly made by Egypt’s former vice-president Mohammad Al Baradei, a self-exiled dissident now living in Austria.