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Guardian says Joseph Mayton never reported news stories about Egypt

In statements to Mada Masr, UK-based newspaper the Guardian denied that freelance journalist Joseph Mayton, whom it accused of fabricating quotes and sources in stories, was its correspondent in Cairo.

“Mayton did not report news stories from, or about, Egypt for the Guardian,” the Guardian news and media spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson confirmed that Mayton only contributed opinion pieces about Egypt, the last of which was published in 2010.

On Thursday, the Guardian published a note claiming several of Mayton’s articles contained information and quotes from unverified sources. The newspaper had launched an investigation following complaints from people Mayton cited in pieces.

“Dozens of sources could not be found — either they had no online presence or they were anonymous and could not be substantiated — and several people quoted in Mayton’s articles either denied speaking with him or giving the quotes attributed to them,” the Guardian revealed.

The newspaper said it had removed 12 of Mayton’s news stories and one opinion piece from its website due to “the extent of the fabrication and the uncertainty surrounding many of the articles.” None of the retracted stories were about Egypt, as identified by the Desk on its website.

In response, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Guardian’s accusation vindicates its position “about the inaccuracies and the lack of credibility of reports in the Guardian concerning the situation in Egypt.”

In a statement published Sunday, ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that while the ministry appreciates that the Guardian held Mayton accountable, erroneously referring to him as the newspaper’s correspondent, “the Guardian will still be held accountable by Egyptian and international public opinion for correcting the false impressions and distortions of Egypt’s image.”

Abu Zeid explained that “the effort to correct this false image is much harder than just launching a lie or false allegation that harms an entire community and tarnishes its image.”

The government will continue to monitor reports on Egypt in the foreign media, and will address any inaccuracies or fabricated reports, the spokesperson said.

Local media also reveled in what it deemed “the Guardian’s scandal,” seizing the opportunity to accuse the British newspaper of publishing misleading reports about Egypt.

While based in Egypt, Mayton was also widely accused of plagiarizing and fabricating stories for local newspapers, as well as for his own news website, Bikya Masr.

His Egypt-related opinion pieces for the Guardian in 2009 and 2010 covered topics such as the environment and animal rights issues, with a handful of stories about corruption under Hosni Mubarak.

Jack Shenker, the Guardian’s former Cairo correspondent, also clarified that Mayton has never reported from Egypt for the Guardian’s foreign desk.

“He is not, was not, and has never been the Guardian’s Cairo correspondent,” Shenker said in a statement.

“Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows this, but pretends otherwise. Pro-Sisi press outlets know it, but pretend otherwise,” Shenker wrote. “Either that, or they have simply not bothered to ascertain the truth. That alone tells you far, far more about Egypt today, as well as the Guardian’s reporting on it, than any official announcement from the Egyptian authorities on the subject.”