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U.S. Allies Told Don't Use ISIS As An Excuse To Crack Down On Dissent

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, this meeting at the U.N. Security Council yesterday was supposed to focus on how to counter groups like ISIS. But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. put some American allies on notice. She urged them not to use the fight against ISIS as an excuse to crack down on political dissent. This was an apparent warning to Egypt, which has a long record of punishing free speech, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Security Council meeting was chaired by Egypt. And while U.S. ambassador Samantha Power didn't point fingers directly, she did seem to have a message for Egyptian authorities and other governments that have been arresting journalists and treating the media, in her words, as an enemy of the state.

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SAMANTHA POWER: The media is an ally when it comes to showing the truth about terrorist groups. Attacking the media will not produce a more compliant citizenry. It will produce a more alienated, suspicious and disenfranchised public, one more likely to chafe under a government's attempts at control, all to the benefit of terrorist groups.

KELEMEN: Shortly after she made those remarks, Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, told reporters Ambassador Power was diluting the message from the real threat at hand, ISIS.

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SAMEH SHOUKRY: It is important that we keep a focus and that we send a clear message and do not confuse issues related to the matter against terrorism with other issues that might be important and certainly must be addressed.

KELEMEN: When he was asked to address reports of journalists languishing in Egyptian jails, the foreign minister claimed that no one has been arrested arbitrarily.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHOUKRY: Anyone who has been imprisoned has been imprisoned for having circumvented laws or having perpetrated violent activities. We uphold the freedom of expression. We uphold the freedom of journalism.

KELEMEN: But the Committee to Protect Journalists says last month alone, Egyptian authorities rounded up dozens of journalists covering anti-government protests. U.S. Ambassador Power raised concerns about that crackdown and what officials described as a tent meeting with Foreign Minister Shoukry earlier this week. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.