Sign up for PM Award Updates!
 
 

Spanish reporter says he fled Egypt to avoid arrest

June 30, 2015

A Spanish reporter who wrote a book on the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday he had fled Egypt after he was warned that local authorities were planning to arrest him.

Ricard Gonzalez, 36, had been working in Egypt since 2011 as a correspondent for Spanish daily El Pais and had also contributed articles for Argentine newspaper La Nacion. He fled Egypt two weeks ago.

“Spanish authorities told me there was an imminent risk of being arrested and indicted, and it could be serious. They advised me to leave the country,” Gonzalez told AFP in a telephone interview.

“I asked about the nature of the threat, they didn’t elaborate on that.”

Gonzalez said the Egyptian embassy in Madrid had expressed reservations about El Pais’s coverage of the country under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“There was a visit of Sisi to Spain and we ran some critical articles and editorials. It could be related to that…But nothing made me suspect that something like this could happen,” he said.

Gonzalez said his planned arrest could also be related to his book in Spanish, “The Rise and Fall of Muslim Brotherhood,” the Islamist movement designated “terrorist group” by Cairo.

After Sisi ousted Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities blacklisted his Muslim Brotherhood movement accusing it of deadly attacks on security forces.

“I tried very hard to be objective and neutral. The book is critical of both — the current regime and also of the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in power,” he said.

Gonzalez, a former Washington correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, said he personally never suffered any harassment during the four years he worked in Egypt.

But in a piece published in El Pais’s online edition, he accused the government of harassing foreign correspondents, including “detaining them for hours without apparent motive”.

“Egyptian journalists are in much more danger, especially those who work for Arabic language media. Those who don’t stick to the official line risk being dismissed, arrested, prosecuted and sometimes tortured,” he wrote.

Rights groups have accused Sisi and his government of curbing media freedoms and of installing a regime more repressive than that of Hosni Mubarak, a former president who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.

Last week media watchdog, The Committee to Protect Journalists said that journalists were facing “unprecedented threats” in Egypt with a record 18 behind bars, mostly for links with the Brotherhood.

Egyptian authorities faced flak after three journalists working for the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television network were arrested in December 2013 and sentenced to up to 10 years in jail for aiding the Brotherhood.

An appeals court later ordered their retrial and a new ruling is expected July 30.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.