The New York Times has revealed that it sought intervention from the Irish government to prevent the expected arrest of a journalist in Egypt.
As part of an editorial on 'The growing threat to journalism around the world', New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger revealed the story of Declan Walsh, an Irish journalist who is Cairo bureau chief for the American newspaper.
A whistleblower in the US government informed the Times of Walsh's "imminent arrest" for his reporting on the death of an Italian student, Giulio Regeni, who was found dead on the side of a road in Cairo with torture marks on his body in February 2016.
The incident occurred in August 2017 after @NYTmag published my story about Giulio Regeni, an Italian student found dead in Cairo. Italy accuses Egypt of involvement, and Egypt denies. It's a sensitive issue. https://t.co/MwFzxsHSic— Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) September 24, 2019
"This particular call took a surprising and distressing turn. We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration," wrote Mr Sulzberger.
"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 official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger.
"Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned, we turned to his native country, Ireland, for help.
Within an hour, Irish diplomats traveled to his house and safely escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him.
"We hate to imagine what would have happened had that brave official not risked their career to alert us to the threat."
Having been referred from the US Embassy to the Irish Embassy, Mr Walsh revealed on Twitter that a "cool, swift and fearless" diplomat was dispatched to his house within an hour and brought him to Cairo Airport, where he took the first available flight to Europe.
He returned to Cairo "weeks later" to resume his work.
The Irish ambassador sent a diplomat to my apartment who arrived in an hour. (I am an Irish citizen.) The diplomat drove to Cairo airport where I took the first available flight to Europe. Weeks later, I returned to Egypt unhindered and resumed work.— Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) September 24, 2019
Since then the @nytimes buro in Cairo, like others, has faced difficulties in Egypt with government accreditation, legal threats, and attacks in the local press. A reporter for the Times of London was expelled last year. My colleague @ddknyt was barred from entry in February.— Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) September 24, 2019
Such troubles pale beside Egyptian journalists who have been imprisoned, exiled or killed. The Committee to Protest Journalists says Egypt is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, alongside Turkey and China. Three were arrested just yesterday.https://t.co/12mnV1xlcm— Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) September 24, 2019
Lastly, I owe a belated thanks an Irish diplomat who rushed to help in a tight spot. He was cool, swift and fearless. And to someone in Washington who took a risk to reach out.— Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) September 24, 2019
Mr Sulzberger also included Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in a list of global leaders who have used the "deeply alarming" phrase 'fake news' to justify varying levels of anti-press activity.
He wrote: "It has been used by liberal leaders, like Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar. It’s been used by right-wing leaders, like Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. Standing next to President Bolsonaro in the Rose Garden, President Trump said, 'I’m very proud to hear the president use the term ‘fake news.’'"