Egypt withdraws accreditation of Guardian journalist over controversial coronavirus report

Sama Osama , Tuesday 17 Mar 2020

It also issued a warning to a New York Times correspondent for what it described as 'professional misconduct'

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan (Al-Ahram)

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) on Tuesday revoked the accreditation of a correspondent of The Guardian’s in Cairo and issued a warning to the New York Times bureau chief for publishing “inaccurate estimates” about the number of coronavirus cases in Egypt.

The Guardian published a report on Sunday claiming that coronavirus infections in Egypt were higher than the official figures, citing Canadian specialists who gave an estimation of around 19,300 cases. The official number of cases announced by Egypt’s health ministry at the time was 126.

New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh tweeted about the Canadian study, saying that the actual number is likely higher that officially reported cases.

SIS, which is responsible for foreign media accreditation, said in a statement Tuesday that it had revoked the license of the British newspaper's correspondent Ruth Michaelson and called on the paper to issue an apology for the report, which it described as "deliberately misleading" and involving "violations of journalism rules".

The authority also issued a warning to the New York Times journalist to "respect journalism rules while performing his work in Egypt."

On Monday, Egypt's health ministry said that the numbers mentioned in The Guardian’s report are “completely false,” and that it immediately announces confirmed cases "in full transparency.”

The two correspondents were summoned for questioning by SIS head Diaa Rashwan on Monday, SIS said in a statement sent to Ahram Online.

SIS said the correspondent's rush to "promote incorrect data does not justify relying on an unpublished study...that is not recognised by international prestigious academic and scientific institutions."

"This reveals their bad intentions to harm Egyptian interests and tarnish the image of the situation in Egypt," SIS added in the statement.

Tuesday's decisions were promoted by the “repeated intentional defamation” of Egypt by The Guardian journalist, and the “professional misconduct” of the New York Times correspondent.

The authority warned that if The Guardian did not publish an official apology in the same manner in which the controversial report was published, it would shut its office in Cairo and revoke the newspaper's permit.

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