Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

MPs round on the New York Times

MPs condemn a New York Times’ article alleging Egypt has tacitly accepted Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

In “Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of the Jerusalem Move”, an article published on 6 January, The New York Times claimed it had obtained recordings of telephone calls between an Egyptian intelligence officer instructing the hosts of TV talk shows to try and persuade their audiences to accept US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal accused the New York Times of orchestrating a hostile media campaign against Egypt.

“We are all aware of the political attitudes of the New York Times and how it receives money from some Arab rulers, particularly from a tiny state which we all know and which spends a lot on this newspaper,” said Abdel-Aal.

“These hostile media campaigns seek to disrupt the country and will become fiercer as presidential elections approach,” he warned.


Yousra

Abdel-Aal was speaking after MP Said Hassasin, head of the Democratic Peace Party, accused the New York Times of fabricating the report.

“The paper claimed in its article on 6 January that while I was working as a TV anchor I used to receive phone calls from an intelligence officer by the name of Ashraf Al-Kholi. Let me inform the Egyptian public that what the New York Times has claimed is a complete fabrication,” he said.

“During my two years as a TV anchor on Al-Assema Channel I was never contacted by an intelligence officer or anyone else from the state’s sovereign institutions instructing me what to do and what not to do.”

Hassasin warned MPs “not to take phone calls from TV channels or any other media outlet without first checking the source of the calls”.

“The New York Times made similarly fabricated claims in November when it alleged that [former president Hosni Mubarak’s] interior minister Habib Al-Adli was in Saudi Arabia. But Al-Adli never left Egypt and was arrested last month.” Hassasin urged the House of Representatives to file a complaint against the New York Times.

“The paper has always been a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and has taken money from the movement’s office in Turkey in return for leading a campaign against designating it a terrorist group in America.”


Fawzi

Hassasin also criticised the government for the absence of a coherent strategy to face down hostile media campaigns.

“The government appears helpless before foreign media outlets which are directed by the terrorist Muslim Brothers and funded by countries which support them.”

MP Mustafa Al-Guindi said “it is not only the New York Times that is trying its best to spread chaos in Egypt but a number of other Western media outlets, particularly the UK-based The Guardian. They have been targeting Egypt since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.”

MPs Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, and Anisa Hassouna demanded a parliamentary spokesperson be appointed to respond to foreign media attacks and recommended a press release be issued every 15 days informing the media of parliament’s achievements.

Abdel-Aal responded by saying that he fears media campaigns against parliament far less than “the behavior of some MPs”.

The New York Times’ report also elicited a response from the State Information Service (SIS) on Sunday.


Hassasin

“The Times report claimed that an intelligence officer named Ashraf Al-Kholi had contacted talk show hosts Moufid Fawzi, Said Hassasin, Azmi Megahed, and popular actress Yousra,” the SIS statement said before pointing out the people named in the article were incorrectly labelled.

“Fawzi is a journalist who stopped TV presenting years ago,” while the talk show hosted by Hassasin stopped broadcasting several weeks before Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

“Yousra denies knowing anyone named Ashraf Al-Kholi or discussing the issue of Jerusalem… adding that she was not present in Egypt during the period specified in the report,” said the SIS statement. It added Yousra had said she intended to take legal action for defamation.

The statement condemned the article for claiming Captain Al-Kholi was an officer with the Egyptian General Intelligence while failing to present “a shred of evidence as to the truth of this piece of information, or that a person by this name exists in the first place.”

The statement stressed that Egypt’s positions on international issues are conveyed by the president, the foreign minister and in official statements, not from “alleged leaks from an anonymous source”.

Egypt, said SIS, had expressed “in word and deed” its position on Jerusalem at the United Nations despite threats by the US to cut aid to countries that condemned Trump’s move.

Egypt submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council demanding Washington reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The resolution was vetoed by the US.

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