New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger:
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. 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.
But 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. 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.
Here’s the Trump administration position toward the press, spelled out:
Eighteen months later, another of our reporters, David
Kirkpatrick, arrived in Egypt and was detained and deported in
apparent retaliation for exposing information that was
embarrassing to the Egyptian government. When we protested the
move, a senior official at the United States Embassy in Cairo
openly voiced the cynical worldview behind the Trump
administration’s tolerance for such crackdowns. “What did you
expect would happen to him?” he said. “His reporting made the
government look bad.”
Bigotry, bad economic policy, antipathy to science, sheer incompetence — I’ve railed against all of these aspects of the Trump administration, but all of these can be remedied at the ballot box. What’s most dangerous is Trump’s flagrant disregard for a free press and for free and fair elections, which go hand-in-hand.
★ Wednesday, 25 September 2019