Trump administration 'was going to allow' Egypt to detain New York Times' journalist

Trump administration 'was going to allow' Egypt to detain New York Times' journalist
The arrest was only prevented with the help of the Irish authorities, The New York Times' publisher said.
3 min read
24 September, 2019
The NYT Cairo bureau chief was almost arrested in 2017 [Twitter]
US President Donald Trump administration was going to "allow" Egypt to arrest a New York Times reporter, the newspaper's publisher alleged on Monday.

The detention of the newspaper's Cairo bureau chief Declan Walsh was only halted after The New York Times alerted the embassy of his native country, Ireland.

In an op-ed published by the newspaper on Monday, published A G Sulzberger described a call from an unnamed US official in 2017 regarding the "immenent arrest" of Walsh.

Breaking protocol

Such calls are standard, Sulzberger said, but this one was particularly "distressing" as the official was passing along the warning "without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration".

"Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed, the Trump administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out," the NYT publisher wrote. "The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger."

Walsh was ultimately able to evade the Egyptian authorities after the NYT contacted Ireland's embassy in Cairo.

Irish diplomats arrived at Walsh's residence "within an hour" and escorted him to the airport.

When the Egyptian authorities detained and deported David Kirkpatrick, another former Cairo bureau chief for the newspaper, earlier this year, an official at the US embassy in Cairo shrugged the incident off.

"What did you expect would happen to him?" he said, according to Sulzberger. "His reporting made the government look bad."

Bel Trew, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, described the incident as "beyond terrifying".

Trew was arrested and deported from Egypt last year.

"I am sure the Trump administration is well aware of what can and does happen to detainees in #Egypt," she wrote in a tweet. 

"Also how if you are arrested your whereabouts are often concealed. How you can get swallowed up in the judicial system in lengthy trials."

At least 25 journalists are currently detained in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"Today's revelation shows how the Trump administration's indifference to press freedom abuses had given Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the ocver he needs to get away with mounting censorship using vague excuses of combatting terrorism and false news," CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.

"Egypt has paid a scant international price for becoming one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world since 2013."

Protests sweep Egypt

Unprecedented demonstrations calling for the ousting of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi erupted last week in Cairo, Suez and other Egyptian cities.

The protests were sparked by corruption allegations lodged against Sisi, his wife and the military by a former government contracter, now self-exiled in Spain.

Mohamed Ali has accused Sisi and his military of appropriating millions of dollars in public funds to build a colossal presidential palace and a number of luxurious villas.

More than 650 people have been detained since Friday in what has been dubbed the "Palacegate" revolution.

Egypt's prosecution sentenced nine people to 15 days in prison on Monday over their participation in the protests.

Among the sentenced was award-winning human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Massry, who was arrested on Sunday after attending an investigation of several of those arrested during the demonstrations.