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Egypt's Sisi warns 'defaming' army is treason

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El Alamein (Egypt) (AFP)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told media on Thursday they should prevent defamation of the military, which he warned would be seen as "high treason" amid a campaign to crush Sinai jihadists.

Sisi's comments at a ceremony to inaugurate the "New El Alamein" city in western Egypt come after complaints by authorities against foreign and local media coverage of the campaign in Sinai.

But Sisi also acknowledged that authorities should allow more media access to front lines to "see how (soldiers and policemen) are dying."

"It is not appropriate that they be defamed and we will not allow it," he said in a speech broadcast on live television."

"I hope the media helps us confront that without me repeating this demand," he said.

"This defamation will be met with the law. It constitutes, for me, high treason," he added.

Access for journalists has been restricted in the Sinai Peninsula, where the military and police launched a wide-ranging campaign to defeat Islamic State jihadists on February 9.

The military says it has killed scores of jihadists in the offensive, and at least seven soldiers have been killed.

It was not immediately clear to whom Sisi was referring, but his comments come after human rights group Amnesty International said the military has used banned cluster bombs in the campaign.

Some media also reported that the operations in Sinai had caused food shortages for residents of the northern part of the peninsula and civilians have been harmed by stray strikes.

A military official told AFP that the army has provided food and supplies to the residents.

"The armed forces have distributed goods to the residents... in coordination with the ministry of supply and (North Sinai) governorate has supplied them with all goods in short supply," he said.

"The operations there are ongoing, in that one is destroying the infrastructure for the extremist elements and targeting them in some residential areas without harming civilians," he said.

AFP has not verified a civilian casualty toll, and much of the military operations appear to be taking place far from residential areas.

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