‘It’s an authoritarian nightmare’: Trump administration fails to help NYT journalist facing arrest in Egypt, publisher claims

The Trump administration failed to help a New York Times journalist who was in danger in Egypt and withheld information that he faced arrest, according to the newspaper’s publisher.

In a scathing op-ed, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger accused Donald Trump’s administration of retreating from the US’ “historical role as a defender of the free press” and encouraging other countries to target journalists.

Mr Sulzberger used the alleged incident in 2017 to illustrate his case, claiming that an official in the administration had to act as a whistleblower to reveal that the NYT journalist Declan Walsh was in danger.

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The Times received a call warning that Mr Walsh, who is the paper’s Cairo bureau chief, was facing “imminent arrest” in Egypt, Mr Sulzberger said.

The official reportedly acted without the “knowledge or permission” of the Trump administration. 

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“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,” Mr Sulzberger said.

“The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger.”

The Times was then reportedly forced to turn to Ireland, Mr Walsh’s native country, for help.

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Irish diplomats travelled to collect the journalist and safely escort him to the airport, according to the publisher.

Mr Sulzberger added: “We hate to imagine what would have happened had that brave official not risked their career to alert us to the threat.”

In another incident, the publisher claimed that a senior official at the United States Embassy in Cairo failed to support one of the Times’ reporters, David Kirkpatrick, when he was detained and deported “in apparent retaliation” for exposing damaging information on the Egyptian government.

When the newspaper objected to his treatment, Mr Sulzberger said the official replied: “What did you expect would happen to him?

“His reporting made the government look bad.”

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Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, commented that the account showed the Trump administration had “gone from cold war to hot war with the media.”

He added: “This is an authoritarian nightmare.”

Mr Trump has consistently attacked the press during his time in office and, as the Times notes, has tweeted about “fake news” nearly 600 times since becoming the president.

In July 2018, Mr Sulzberger met with Mr Trump to discuss his comments about the media.

Although Mr Trump suggested that they agreed on “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media”, Mr Sulzberger said the president had mischaracterised their meeting.

The publisher claimed instead that he criticised Mr Trump’s attacks on the press.

“I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence,” Mr Sulzberger said.


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