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Egypt’s SIS warns Washington Post over 'misconduct and disinformation'

The SIS said the correspondent exhibited 'professional misconduct, disinformation and misinformation in his recent reports on Egypt'

Ahram Online , Sunday 24 May 2020
  Diaa Rashwan
File Photo: Diaa Rashwan (Al-Ahram)
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Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) says it has sent a warning to the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post newspaper over “professional misconduct and disinformation” displayed in a recent report on Egypt.

The SIS, which is responsible for regulating the affairs of foreign press and media correspondents in Egypt, also said in a press release on Saturday that it has alerted the Cairo bureau chief of The New York Times over “numerous professional violations in some of his recent reports.”

Chairman of the SIS Diaa Rashwan met with Cairo Bureau Chief for The Washington Post Sudarsan Raghavan late on Saturday. Rashwan briefed Raghavan on “the professional misconduct, disinformation and misinformation contained in his recent reports on Egypt,” the SIS said in its statement.

Rashwan handed Raghavan a copy of the letter sent to the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post detailing “the journalistic violations by its Cairo-based reporter, who was issued a warning that in the event that such professional violations . . . appropriate measures permitted by both the law in Egypt and the rules of many countries worldwide shall be taken against him.”

In the letter to the editor-in-chief, the SIS specifically referred to a report published in The Washington Post on 10 May 2020 titled ‘As coronavirus spreads in Egypt, Sissi sees opportunity to tighten his grip.’

The letter detailed what the SIS described as “professional violations” in the report.

The SIS said that the report anonymously quoted “human rights activists”, and directed “very serious accusations to the Egyptian government, describing it as a ‘military-backed government’.”

The SIS argued that this rhetoric is “at odds with the reality of Egypt’s established civilian state with all its legitimate institutions, governed by a constitution approved by the people in a referendum.”

The SIS also said in the letter that contrary to what was mentioned in the report, the amendments to the emergency law were due to “the country's need to take extraordinary measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus,” and not to “grant the country's security institutions additional powers.”

The letter stressed that the amendments – which expand powers to “ban or limit public and private gatherings, to shut down schools, and to restrict people from owning, transporting, selling, buying or exporting any goods or services, as well as control their prices” – are essential for any country in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The SIS denied the correspondent’s claim that “the government did not respond to a request for comment,” saying that it had not received any communication from the correspondent in this regard.

It also stressed that unlike what was mentioned in the report, the banning of prison visits was not to “silence political prisoners”, but rather to “protect the prisoners themselves from the pandemic.”

The SIS said that based on such “professional misconduct,” it warned Raghavan of the need to “adhere to the proper professional standards when practicing his journalistic work in Egypt.”

The SIS added in its statement that its chairman Rashwan also met with Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times Declan Walsh, and alerted him on “numerous professional violations in some of his recent reports.”

The SIS underscored that it had previously issued a warning to the US newspaper’s bureau chief last month.

Bellow is the full text of the SIS letter:

Dear Mr. Martin Baron 
 
Editor-in-Chief, The Washington Post 
 
The State Information Service (SIS) conveys its highest regards to you and your esteemed newspaper and wishes to notify you of the following: 
 
Based on our appreciation of the Washington Post, and its known adherence to professional rules in journalism, we wish to inform you that the newspaper’s Cairo Bureau Chief Mr. Sudarsan Raghavan has often encroached on the rules of the press profession, which are recognized throughout the world and are endorsed by your esteemed newspaper. 
 
The latest example of such encroachment is the report by Mr. Raghavan titled “As coronavirus spreads in Egypt, Sissi sees opportunity to tighten his grip”, which was published in The Washington Post on 10/5/2020 and contained numerous professional  violations as follows: 
 
- The report attributed to what it calls “human rights activists”, an anonymous source, very serious accusations to the Egyptian government, describing it as a “military-backed government”. Such words are mere rhetoric and are at odds with the reality of Egypt’s established civil State with all its legitimate institutions, governed by a constitution approved by the people in a referendum. Officials of State institutions (the Presidency and Parliament) came into power through free elections monitored by hundreds of reporters from around the world, including the correspondent of your esteemed newspaper. 
 
- At the same time, your correspondent in the aforementioned report accused officials in Egypt of exploiting amendments to the emergency law to grant the country's security institutions additional powers. It is a false accusation as the amendments to the emergency law were necessitated by the country's need to take extraordinary measures to counter the spread of the "Coronavirus". These are appropriate measures, considerably mitigated than those that all the nations of the world, including the United States itself, have had to take. 
 
- The correspondent based his report on a highly politicized statement by Human Rights Watch, which was rejected by Egypt. Besides, what your reporter has said about giving the State's official authorities the powers to “ban or limit public and private gatherings, to shut down schools, and to restrict people from owning, transporting, selling, buying or exporting any goods or services, as well as control their prices” are necessary measures taken by all the countries of the world in the face of the pandemic. 
 
- Your correspondent, who resorted to mere platitude by what he labeled “activists” and a tendentious statement by HRW, lives in Cairo and could have followed the rules of journalistic work by resorting to the relevant sources and taking their views into account when publishing the report, as well as following up on the reality in the Egyptian street, where citizens roam in much greater freedom than other countries despite the spread of the pandemic; a matter reflecting that the intervention of all official authorities in the lives of individuals is at a lower level than any measures in other countries. 
 
- The correspondent claimed that “the government did not respond to a request for comment”. Unfortunately, the State Information Service has not received any communication from the correspondent in this regard. In fact, the correspondent consistently has not contacted SIS to communicate with stakeholders in Egypt for most of his reports abundant in allegations and fallacies. 
 
- Your correspondent made false claims that the Egyptian people's revolution in 2013 to get rid of religious fascism was a “military coup”, While ignoring the armed terrorism that our country has been subjected to so far by these terrorist groups invoking the Islamic religion, and claiming that terrorists who are being fairly tried in public for their crimes are political opponents. 
 
- Your correspondent ignored all the rules of the journalism profession when he turned to a researcher at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and an unknown researcher said to be from Amnesty International. It would have been prudent for him to witness firsthand the situation on the ground, rather than propagating their baseless claims and ignoring the views of the concerned parties on these allegations, thus violating press rules requiring that the views of all parties be taken on an equal footing. 
 
- In his report, your correspondent criticizes the temporary suspension of prison visits and sees it as a way to “silence political prisoners”, while it is a measure to protect the prisoners themselves from the pandemic. Prison visits have been replaced by other means of communication between prisoners and their relatives. Present-day realities confirm that this measure has so far helped to protect the lives of prisoners. 
 
- This biased, unprofessional and subjective report is a continuation of the excesses of your correspondent in Cairo, based in its entirety on raising the most serious accusations against the State institutions in Egypt, resorting to the same type of sources, either anonymous sources labelled as "activists", or researchers, harboring well-known negative stances against Egypt, who do not reside in it and even have not entered it for years. 
 
- The presence of the reporter in Cairo and granting him accreditation as a foreign correspondent means, under journalistic customs worldwide, that the correspondent has to apprise himself of the reality and to communicate with all parties, not to poll the opinions of everyone who has antagonism with the Egyptian State around the world. 
 
In light of all the above, we wish to inform you that the State Information Service has met with Mr. Sudarsan Raghavan and warned him of the need to adhere to the proper professional standards when practicing his journalistic work in Egypt, in accordance with his accreditation as a foreign correspondent. Otherwise, we will have to take measures, permitted by law in Egypt and the guidelines regulating the work of accredited foreign correspondents, and which are applied not only in Egypt, but also globally. 
 
In conclusion, we wish to express to you our sincere appreciation to the esteemed "The Washington Post" newspaper, which undoubtedly would not tolerate such professional violations by its Cairo bureau chief, which are inconsistent with the newspaper’s status and credibility. 
 
Sincerely,

Diaa Rashwan

Chairman, State Information Service 
 
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