(New York, NY) – The New York Times’ publisher A.G. Sulzberger revealed today that the U.S. government learned of the imminent arrest of Times reporter Declan Walsh in Egypt and did nothing to protect him. PEN America issued the following statement in response, attributable to Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs:

“This is the latest in a long list of disgraceful incidents in which the U.S. government has demonstrated its callous disregard for the safety of journalists. This attitude clearly trickles down from a president who personally threatens reporters, discredits honest reporting as fake news, and fails to stand up for journalists under attack from authoritarians around the world. 

“Next week marks one year since the brutal murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government – an atrocity for which President Trump has shown no interest in seeking accountability. In the context of horrors like Khashoggi’s murder and a global rise in threats to journalists, we now hear of a shocking dereliction of duty by officials within the United States government who determined to stand idly by while a Times reporter’s safety hung in the balance in Egypt.

“Given the dire conditions in Egypt for free expression, Walsh could have been subject to severe repercussions had a courageous U.S. Embassy official not acted alone to warn the newspaper. American journalists deserve to know that their government will come to their defense if they are in danger, and foreign journalists should also be able to count on the United States to speak out when they come under threat or attack.

“We applaud Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s strong statement in defense of press freedom, including his disclosure of this incident from two years ago that required The Times to enlist another government to escort its journalist to safety. While media organizations have traditionally tried to stand outside the fray, times of great threat demand outspoken responses. And we at PEN America join in calling on the U.S. government to resume its role as a global leader in support of media freedom and to stand with journalists everywhere against the autocrats who would see them silenced.” 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892