On Sunday, CBS News will air a controversial interview Egypt’s government doesn’t want the world to see.
The “60 Minutes” special features President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who, during his conversation with host Scott Pelley, confirmed that the country’s military is collaborating with Israel in armed operations in the Sinai peninsula, according to a network press release.
Asked by Pelley whether the joint operation was the closest the two once-warring enemies had ever cooperated, Sissi replied, “That is correct…We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis.”
During another part of the conversation, Sissi claimed there are no political prisoners in Egypt, despite a Human Rights Watch estimate that there are 60,000 possible political prisoners currently being detained. Sissi also faced an uncomfortable question from Pelley over his ousting of former President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in a 2013 coup when nearly 1,000 of the group’s supporters were massacred.
While Sissi’s statements aren’t exactly earth-shattering, CBS revealed that after the interview was filmed, the Egyptian ambassador contacted its “60 Minutes” team and warned that the interview could not be aired. Nonetheless, fulfilling its journalistic mission, the program will air as scheduled Sunday evening.
CBS did not elaborate further in its press release on the specifics of its contact with the ambassador.
The Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief, Tamer El-Ghobashy, speculates that Sissi’s remarks on Egypt’s partnership with Israel likely prompted the retraction rather than talk of human rights abuses, given that the government has expressed no remorse for such behavior and has faced almost no consequences from the United Nations or a single foreign government.
Sissi is widely seen by his critics as a figure of oppression, surpassing that of dictator Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for almost 30 years before being pushed out in the 2011 revolt.