The publisher of the New York Times has claimed that the paper had to turn to the Irish Government to assist one of its reporters amid fears the Trump administration would not help.

In an opinion piece on the growing threat to journalists around the world, the New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger said two years ago it got a call from a US government official warning that one of its reporters, Irishman Declan Walsh, was going to be arrested in Egypt.

The official was passing along the warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration and believed the administration would sit on the information and let the arrest happen.

"Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned, we turned to his native country, Ireland, for help," Mr Sulzberger wrote.

Within an hour, Irish diplomats travelled to Mr Walsh's house and escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him.

"We hate to imagine what would have happened had that brave official not risked their career to alert us to the threat," Mr Sulzberger wrote.

Mr Walsh has said that when he contacted the Irish Embassy in Cairo and Ambassador Damien Cole they "moved very fast".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, he said he had just published a story for the magazine about the death of an Italian student, Giulio Regeni, whose body was found on the side of a road in Cairo with torture marks on his body in February 2016.

Mr Walsh said the student's death was "an incredibly sensitive subject" between Italy and Egypt.

He said he spent months working on the story, and the day it was published he received a call from the New York Time's International Editor, saying that the paper had received a warning from a US official that the Egyptian authorities were very unhappy with the story and were considering arresting him.

Mr Walsh said he first contacted the US Embassy in Cairo, before being advised to contact the Irish Embassy instead as he was an Irish citizen.

"My first port of call was to the US Embassy in Cairo, but they told me as an Irish citizen I should go to my own embassy first.

"I called the Irish Ambassador, Damien Cole, and Damien sent an Irish official around to my apartment pretty much within an hour with a car and the embassy driver," he said.

"I grabbed a few things and we went immediately to the airport from there and I took a flight to Europe, the first flight I could get out."

"We hate to imagine what would have happened had that brave official not risked their career to alert us to the threat," Mr Sulzberger wrote.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is not commenting on the case.

Mr Walsh also told Today with Sean O'Rourke that he stayed out of Egypt for a number of weeks after the incident, before returning to Cairo, where he continues to work as Bureau Chief for the paper.

Mr Walsh said there has long been an assumption that when reporters come under threat in places like Egypt, in extreme circumstances the paper can turn to its own government for support.

However, he said this situation shows that that assumption does not necessarily hold true under the Trump administration.


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Mr Walsh also said that US President Donald Trump has stood staunchly behind his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, despite intense criticism for human rights abuses and "effectively shutting down the free press in his own country".

He added that it is important to point out that in "a place like Egypt" foreign reporters do not face the "worst perils".

"Egypt is one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world," he said, "and that is almost exclusively of Egyptian journalists who have been harassed, beaten and arrested and so on."

Mr Walsh also said that foreign reporters working in Egypt do so under the assumption that the state is watching what they do closely.

The New York Times also criticised the number of world leaders using the term "fake news", including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

It said: "My colleagues and I recently researched the spread of the phrase "fake news," and what we found is deeply alarming: In the past few years, more than 50 prime ministers, presidents and other government leaders across five continents have used the term "fake news" to justify varying levels of anti-press activity.

"The phrase has been used to jail journalists in Cameroon, to suppress stories about corruption in Malawi, to justify a social media blackout in Chad, to prevent overseas news organizations from operating in Burundi. It has been used by the leaders of our longtime allies, like Mexico and Israel. It has been used by longtime rivals, like Iran, Russia and China.

"It has been used by liberal leaders, like Ireland's prime minister, Leo Varadkar. It’s been used by right-wing leaders, like Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro."

Additional reporting: Brian O'Donovan