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Egypt's newspaper editors warned by presidential candidate al-Sisi: Don't push freedoms

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, May 8, 2014, 6:24 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt's top presidential candidate, the former military chief, warned newspaper editors not to press issues of freedoms of speech and other rights or campaign for democratic reforms, saying demands and protests jeopardize national security and that full democracy is an “idealistic” goal that could take 25 years to reach.

Field Marshal Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi also said he would “walk away” if people rose up against him and demanded that he step down — a promise also once made by Islamist President Mohamed Morsy, who in the end refused to resign in the face of huge protests against him, prompting al-Sisi to remove him from power last summer.

Al-Sisi is seen as the overwhelming favorite to win the May 26 and 27 vote.

In his campaign, he has heavily pushed the message that his priority is restoring stability and making “leaps” in development to reduce poverty after three years of turmoil and violence since the 2011 toppling of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Al-Sisi has repeatedly said the public must get behind him and stop protests.

In a four-hour meeting with about 20 editors of Egypt's main newspapers, parts of which were aired on a private TV network on Thursday and published on newspaper websites, al-Sisi said practice of freedoms must be balanced with national security and that the media should focus on rallying the public behind “the strategic goal” of “preserving the Egyptian state.”

He warned the editors against “scaring people” with coverage that “creates skepticism or uneasiness in society.”

“You write in the newspaper, ‘No voice is louder than freedom of speech!' What is this? What tourist would come to a country where we have demonstrations like this? You know that there are millions of people and families who can't earn their living because of the protests. It is one of the manifestations of instability.”

Most of the papers whose editors attended the meeting, while reporting the comments, focused their headlines on al-Sisi's remarks about plans to fight corruption and poverty and his readiness to leave power.

He also told the editors not to start negative media campaigns against officials.

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