CAIRO – 14 September 2019: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi stated that no dams had never been built on the Nile River before 2011, in an indication to the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), denying social media “rumors” on the army.
“The only mistake the Egyptian did and paid its price had happened in 2011, as no dams had never been built on the Nile River before 2011,” said the president in the second session of the eighth edition of the National Youth Conference (NYC) on Saturday.
Following the January 2011 Revolution, Ethiopia started building the dam on the Blue Nile in May 2011. Since then, Egypt has voiced its concern over its 55.5 billion cubic meter of water share. In 2014, Egypt entered in a series of tripartite talks with Ethiopia and Sudan; one year later, the three countries reached an agreement, per which the downstream countries should not be affected by the construction of the dam. However, three days ago, Egypt voiced its unease concerning the prolonged negotiations with Addis Ababa, especially on the technical problem of filling the dam’s reservoir with Nile water.
The problematic point between Egypt and Ethiopia is a technical one related to the period of filling the dam’s reservoir with water. Ethiopia asked for 5-6 years to fill the reservoir, while Egypt asked Ethiopia to abide by the Nile water quantity flow in filling the reservoir to “avoid any significant damage on the downstream countries,” former Head of the Central Department for Technical Cooperation at the Nile Sector of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Mamdouh Mohamed Hassan told Egypt Today in previous remarks.
Damaging Fake News
Commenting on what has been circulated on the social media platforms over the past two weeks regarding the construction of presidential palaces, President Sisi said such claims aim at undermining the people’s confidence in his rule.
“Scepticism started before [the presence of] social media and has struck the Egyptian society over the past 50 years. What has been circulating on social media since the past two weeks aims at undermining the people’s confidence in that person [himself],” he said.
Two weeks ago, an anti-government campaign launched on social media, claiming that the army, which supervise infrastructure projects in Egypt, is “misrun” the projects. However, President Sisi affirmed to all Egyptians that “the Army is a guarded institution and very sensitive to any behavior”.
“What has been done over the past 5 years is a big achievement for a nation has a belief. Are you [saboteurs] coming today to shake this belief?!” said President Sisi, adding “To assure every Egyptian person at his home, I say this [misleading and fake news] is a mere lie and a slander.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the second session at the 8th edition of the National Youth Conference in Cairo- press photo
“I am doing and will do presidential palaces. They are not mine; I am establishing a new state. I am doing so in the name of Egypt. I am building a state in the administrative capital; the whole world will see it. Egypt is not a marginalized state. I am building a cultural and artistic city that will be the largest [city] in the world,” the President said.
“Our presence [as leaders and officials] is temporary and the unwavering thing is our country. When I went to the presidential palace, I have been told that all [previous] presidents have lunch at the state’s expense in a legal way. I [however] ordered that every person in the presidential palace should eat at his own expense.”
The president said all gifts offered to him are exhibited in a museum named ‘The President’s Acquisition’. Addressing all old women in Egypt, Sisi said “Your son [he] is honest and sincere man.”
President Sisi clarified that the state has achieved a big progress and successes in dozens military-supervised projects, mainly roads and bridges, saying “the army carried out road projects at a cost of LE 175 billion and all projects totaled LE4 trillions.”
However, he added that saboteurs are undermining such progress, saying “Every project or an achievement we do is followed by a terrorist attack or by this kind of operation [cyberattack or troll campaign].”
“No one can attack Egypt for many reasons; one of them is that it has the strongest army in the region. It is a very strong and sold army,” the president said.
Panelists of second session of the one-day conference discussed the effect of spreading false information on the state as part of Fourth-generation warfare.
According to a study conducted by AFP, 33 percent of Internet users are subjected to fake news, mostly target politics and economies, said Panelist Howayda Musfata, dean of faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University.
“The fake news on social media platforms are used to undermine state’s efforts in fighting terrorism directly” she said, adding “we need media culture and to know how to deal with social media, which is not [an authentic] source of information.”
She continued that the concept of media education should be followed and taught at schools as every student knows the applications that verify pieces of information and how to rationalize social media usage.
Every day people’s personal data are being hacked through using free Wi-Fi, opening unknown links sent by messages, and through some free applications and games, said Cybersecurity Engineer Ahmed Anas.
Personal data can be easily hacked through mobile games, which take great power and know more about the mobile owner, he added, saying “Games can collect information about where and when do you sleep, where are you working?. If [an online] product is free, you and your mobile would be products as well.”
Some applications and online programs are working on recruiting persons through collecting their online data, which is later being analyzed. Then application can offer what the mobile owner wants to purchase, read or play a game. The last stage, the users can directly dealing with the company that stands behind the game, said cybersecurity engineer Hassan Ali at the panel.
Later, the recruited person, whose mind was washed, could affect other people via end-to-end contact, instant or encrypted messages, or blogs, he continued.
The second session started with a short film talking about the negative impacts of social media on people and the phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of missing out), giving examples of social media addicts.
Three billion out of 7.2 billion people are using social media; 2.5 billion are using Facebook, according to the film, saying that social media is fertile ground for fake news and inciting extremist speeches. The video shows how the government, via the Cabinet’s supervising agency, is combating fake news on social media.
“Do not an addict and have a good life.” a message delivered by all interviewees in the film.
The one-day conference consists of three sessions. The first session evaluates counter-terrorism efforts locally and regionally, while the second session discusses the effect of spreading false information on the state as part of Fourth-generation warfare, and the third session will be dedicated to questions sent by citizens via online platforms to President Sisi who will be answering them in the session titled "Ask the President."