Why one rogue reporter could jeopardise journalist’s safety in Egypt
The Guardian offices, London (Andre Cowrie / AFP)
Click here to add army as an alert
Disable alert for army,
Click here to add Cairo as an alert
Disable alert for Cairo,
Click here to add California as an alert
Disable alert for California,
Click here to add Joseph Mayton as an alert
Disable alert for Joseph Mayton,
Click here to add Mustafa Bakri as an alert
Disable alert for Mustafa Bakri,
Click here to add Patrick Kingsley as an alert
Disable alert for Patrick Kingsley,
Click here to add Remy Piglaglio as an alert
Disable alert for Remy Piglaglio,
Click here to add Salahadin Abdelsadaq as an alert
Disable alert for Salahadin Abdelsadaq,
Click here to add State Information Service as an alert
Disable alert for State Information Service,
Click here to add The Guardian as an alert
Disable alert for The Guardian
After being told that one of its freelancers had fabricated quotations on reports, editors at the Guardian hired a private investigator to learn more.
What they found was sobering: evidence that Joseph Mayton, a California-based freelancer, had made up quotes, misreported sources, and written about events he hadn’t attended. His rogue reporting had continued unchecked for seven years,
For the Guardian, the discovery necessitated an apology. The newspaper made an announcement, and removed or changed many of Mayton’s articles in response.
But for journalists in Egypt this fiasco is bigger than one man’s reliability.
Although he wrote mainly from the west coast of the USA, Mayton published a handful of articles for the Guardian from Cairo. This is a place where hostility towards foreign journalists is already high – and where media and politicians often vilify international reporters for “discrediting” the country.
Transgressions don’t get forgotten easily, and in Egyptian media the incident is being painted as a scandal.
In the last few days both government ministers and national journalists have said the fiasco discredits all the Guardian’s reporting from Egypt - even going as far as saying it’s evidence of a conspiracy. TV presenter and MP Mustafa Bakri used his TV show "Truths and Secrets" to claim that the Guardian works against the army and to influence the Egyptian people, while Salahadin Abdelsadaq, the head of the State Information Service, said the paper had no place in Egypt.
Ironically, many of the reports on the scandal were themselves guilty of misreporting. Mayton didn’t have strong connections with Egypt: the last article he wrote from the country was in 2010 and he was never its official correspondent – that was award-winning journalist Patrick Kingsley.
But the news comes at a bad time for press freedom in Egypt, and reporters there have good reason to be worried. French journalist Remy Piglaglio was barred from entering the country and deported only last week, while in 2014 three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed under charges of broadcasting false information.