Egypt has withdrawn the licence of a Guardian correspondent to report in the country over a story she did about Covid-19 in the country.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) said in an announcement that it had revoked the accreditation of Ruth Michaelson, a Guardian correspondent in Cairo, and it also issued a warning to the New York Times bureau chief for publishing what it said was “inaccurate estimates” about the number of coronavirus cases in Egypt.
According to the official statement, the SIS, which is responsible for foreign media accreditation, not only said it had revoked the licence but also called on the paper to issue an apology for the report, which it described as “deliberately misleading” and involving “violations of journalism rules”.
In the statement, the SIS statement added that “The General Information Authority, through its role in following up what is published about Egypt in the foreign media, has monitored the release of a press report in the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ on Sunday 3/15/2020, which includes incorrect numbers and estimates regarding the numbers of new cases of Coronavirus that are emerging in Egypt.”
The article by journalist Ruth Michaelson cited Canadian epidemiologists who estimated Egypt’s COVID-19 infections had actually surpassed 19,000.
The statement also referred to tweets by The New York Times Cairo bureau chief Declan Walsh citing the same figures. Apparently Walsh later deleted the tweets following a backlash from Egyptians online.
The article added that Egypt had a “large burden of Covid-2019 cases that are unreported.”
The study added that at least 97 foreign nationals who visited Egypt since mid-February “had shown symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19 on return home,” noting that most of those foreigners had spent time “on Nile cruises believed to be the source of the outbreak in the southern city of Luxor, a tourism hotspot.”
According to local media on Monday, Egypt’s health ministry said that the numbers mentioned in The Guardian’s report are “completely false,” and that it immediately announces confirmed cases in full transparency.
The official number stands at 196, with six deaths and 26 recovered cases at the moment in the country.