Upon his arrival to Cairo airport on Monday, New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick was detained by Egyptian authorities, held for several hours and forced on a flight back to London, according to the New York Times.
Kirkpatrick was the New York Times Cairo bureau chief from 2011 to 2015 and is the author of the recently published book, Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East.
According to the New York Times, Kirkpatrick’s phone was confiscated and he was held without food or water for seven hours. “On Tuesday morning, Egyptian officials escorted him onto an EgyptAir flight back to London. An air marshal held his passport until the plane touched down at Heathrow Airport,” the newspaper reported.
Kirkpatrick had come under heavy criticism by Egyptian authorities for his reporting, including over an article last year that claimed that Egyptian intelligence officers had directed several influential talk show hosts in their coverage of the US move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Kirkpatrick also reported last year that Israel has been targeting militants inside Egypt with covert airstrikes for over two years with the approval of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Last year, Youm7, a daily newspaper that is owned by the General Intelligence Service, published a full-page spread with fantastical allegations attacking Kirkpatrick titled, “Writing with the blood of Egyptians in the New York Times: Secrets of fabrication and the meetings of David Kirkpatrick with Azmi Bishara and the leaders of terrorist groups in London… His friends: A writer of screenplays and not journalism… And his wife: Dave’s sympathy for the Brotherhood makes our lives harder.”
Kirkpatrick’s ordeal is the latest in an unprecedented crackdown on journalists and press freedoms in Egypt over the past several years. Egyptian journalists have been the government’s primary target, with at least 25 journalists in prison, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In its annual report, the watchdog group found that Egypt leads the world in jailing journalists on charges of “publishing false news.”
“Kirkpatrick has been a trusted source for international coverage for Egypt over the past decade,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, told Mada Masr. “He and the many journalists behind bars in Egypt serve Egyptian and the international public by speaking truth to power and exposing corruption, injustice and lies.”
Before Kirkpatrick, the most recent incident targeting journalists took place three weeks ago, when journalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada was detained at Cairo airport on January 29 upon his arrival from Tunisia for a short visit to finish his application for membership in Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate. He was forcibly disappeared for over two weeks before appearing before the prosecution on February 13. On Saturday, a judge ordered him to be held in remand detention for 15 days on charges of publishing false news.
While often spared prison, foreign correspondents have nevertheless been targeted by authorities. In May, French journalist Nina Hubinet was denied entry at Cairo Airport, while a reporter with The Times of London, Bel Trew, was deported from the country in March.