Spanish reporter flees Egypt in fear of 'imminent arrest'

Spanish reporter flees Egypt in fear of 'imminent arrest'
Local and foreign journalists in Egypt are facing increasing risks of prosecution, leading Spanish reporter Ricard Gonzalez to leave the country following warnings by Spanish authorities.
3 min read
01 July, 2015
Gonzalez has extensively covered the crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members [AFP]
A reporter for leading Spanish newspaper El Pais has been forced to leave Egypt suddenly, following urgent advice from Madrid that local authorities were preparing to arrest him, according to local media reports on Wednesday.

Ricard Gonzalez, El Pais' now-former Cairo correspondent, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that he had to leave Egypt in a rush, after living there since September 2011.

His departure came after Spanish authorities warned him that he was under the imminent risk of being arrested, indicted, and possibly even incarcerated.

"The Spanish authorities did not say how or why I might face charges or who the source was," Gonzalez added. "I knew the warning was serious and I did not want to take the risk of staying."

Gonzalez added that he did not know why Egyptian authorities would want to arrest him, but he mentioned possible reasons.
I knew the warning was serious and I did not want to take the risk of staying.
- Ricard Gonzalez

"It could have been my contacts, my newspaper's criticism of the Egyptian regime, or even my book about the Muslim Brotherhood."

Gonzalez's book, The Rise and Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, was published in March.

"The book is critical of the current regime, but it's also critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, it's not sympathetic at all," Gonzalez told Deutche Welle.

"My newspaper, El Pais, has been one of the most critical newspapers in Europe when it comes to the Egyptian regime, maybe that's another reason. I just don't know," he added.

In an article in El Pais, explaining the circumstances surrounding his departure from Egypt, Gonzalez said he was very surprised, "since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said several times that in case of troubles, foreign journalists should be deported, not judged".

Gonzalez also told al-Araby al-Jadeed that, before this incident, he had not faced major problems with the Egyptian authorities. 

"There were some restrictions of course", he said. "For example, you could not take pictures in the street without a permit.

"But I was always able to renew my visa and work permit without any trouble.

"It is the Egyptian journalists who face the real risks," he added. "They take brave steps to cover issues that are not welcomed by the regime."

Reporting in Egypt has become increasingly difficult and dangerous in recent years, leading local and international human rights organisations to condemn the authorities' pattern of arrests, alleged intimidation, and indefinite detention without charge.

In a report issued on World Press Freedom day in May 2015, Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities "to immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for their journalistic work - for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression".

The report listed several cases "to illustrate a growing pattern of detaining critical journalists".