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New York Times turned to Irish diplomats for help for journalist at risk of arrest in Egypt

This came after a tip off that US officials knew about the impending arrest and had chosen to “sit on the information”.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/littlenySTOCK

THE PUBLISHER OF the New York Times has said that Irish diplomats stepped in to prevent an Irish journalist from being arrested in Egypt, after a tip off from a US official that the Trump administration would not take any action to prevent him being detained.

Speaking to Brown University on “the growing threat to journalism around the world”, AG Sulzberger said that US authorities were going to “sit on the information” that Declan Walsh was about to be arrested.

When Irish authorities were alerted to the situation, diplomats went to his house within an hour and safely escorted him to an airport before he could be detained. 

In his speech, Sulzberger said that the work of journalism “has long carried risks” and referenced journalists such as Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered last year.

He said: “What’s different today is that these brutal crackdowns are being passively accepted and perhaps even tacitly encouraged by the president of the United States.”

Sulzberger accused the Trump administration of retreating from its “historic role as a defender of the free press”.

“To give you a sense of what this retreat looks like on the ground, let me tell you a story I’ve never shared publicly before,” he said. “Two years ago, we got a call from a United States government official warning us of the imminent arrest of a New York Times reporter based in Egypt named Declan Walsh.

Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard. Over the years, we’ve received countless such warnings from American diplomats, military leaders and national security officials.

This call, however, took a “surprising and distressing turn” according to Sulzberger.

download (77) Source: New York Times

“We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration,” he said.

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.

The publisher of the New York Times then outlined the role Irish authorities played in securing Walsh’s safety.

download (78) Source: New York Times

He said: “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.

Walsh has since returned to Egypt where he is the Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment. 

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Sean Murray

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