Legal action against the New York Times (NYT) is on the table as Egypt’s public prosecution has started an investigation into the allegedly leaked tapes published by the newspaper, and two of the public figures mentioned in the story said they would file a lawsuit.
NYT had published a story claiming that Egyptian leaders support the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, although Egypt has announced its rejection to the move.
Egypt also drafted a resolution against the decision in the UN Security Council, harnessing a 14-1 vote before it was vetoed by the United States. On December 21, 128 states voted in favor of the resolution in the 190-UN Special Emergency General Assembly.
NYT based its claims on leaked phone calls of an alleged Egyptian intelligence officer called Captain Ashraf el-Kholy instructing four “talk show hosts” to publicly oppose Trump’s decision while refuting any calls for the Palestinian Intifada as it may allegedly compose a threat to Egypt’s national security.
The validity of the recordings is highly doubtful particularly since one of these identified as a host of political talk shows is acclaimed actress Yousra, who never comments on political matters and is not a host of any television program. Also, the four public figures mentioned have little influence over public opinion in Egypt.
The other three are Mofid Fawzy, who ended his career as an anchor many years ago, sports presenter Azmy Megahed, and Parliamentarian Said Hassassein, whose show has been halted for months. All four individuals denied being contacted by the alleged officer after the story was released. Yousra and Megahed announced they would sue the publication in the United States.
The recordings were broadcast by the Istanbul-based TV channel Mekamelin ,which is run by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood,a few hours after the story was published on Sunday.
Anticipated legal processes
International Law Professor and Member of Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Ayman Salama, told Egypt Today that “entitled entities” in Egypt can file a “liable lawsuit” in the United States because of the moral damage the publication caused among Egyptian citizens.
The expert stressed that the code of ethics in the media industry dictates that media outlets should neither publish nor broadcast data and information that cannot be verified. He added that NYT likely sought a scoop that would stir debate and grab attention, regardless of the consequences on its credibility.
“The entities should demand that NYT publishes a retraction in the same page, and size of the unverified story,apologizing and negating all false information it included,”Salama added. Chapter one of the Egyptian Penal Code denounces “propagation of false news that jeopardize national peace and disrupt the Egyptian community,” which Salama linked to the publication’s behavior.
The investigation started by the Egyptian Public Prosecution would involve summoning the correspondent, who,in this case, is David D. Kirkpatrick and everyone in charge of running the story, to interrogation.
Salama anticipates that such investigation would be “unfruitful” and wouldn’t unravel the truth quickly enough.In his view, the least action NYT should take is dismissing all correspondents and editors involved in producing and running such story.