NYT publisher: US didn’t step in to protect reporter from arrest in Egypt so paper turned to Ireland

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The New York Times had to seek help from the Irish government to shield a correspondent from arrest in Egypt after a U.S. diplomat said the Trump administration would not protect him, Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote in an opinion column published Monday.

In the 2017 incident, Sulzberger wrote, a U.S. government official alerted the Times that the correspondent, Declan Walsh, was in imminent danger of arrest. While such calls are not uncommon, the official told the Times they were making the call without the approval of the Trump administration and that they believed the administration intended to let it occur.

{mosads}“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,” Sulzberger wrote.

Sulzberger went on to decry President Trump’s frequent characterization of critical reporting as “fake news” for what he said had been a ripple effect that encouraged press crackdowns abroad.

“He has effectively given foreign leaders permission to do the same with their countries’ journalists, and even given them the vocabulary with which to do it. They’ve eagerly embraced the approach,” Sulzberger wrote.

“My colleagues and I recently researched the spread of the phrase ‘fake news,’ and what we found is deeply alarming: In the past few years, more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other government leaders across five continents have used the term ‘fake news’ to justify varying levels of anti-press activity.”

Sulzberger cites usage of the phrase by heads of state ranging from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as in Myanmar to deny the very existence of the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority, who have been the targets of ethnic cleansing.

Foreign correspondents, Sulzberger writes, “are the front-line soldiers in the battle for press freedom, and they’re the ones who pay the greatest price for President Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.”

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