ICFJ's Work in Egypt

Feb 102012

Dear Friends of ICFJ,

As you may have heard, the International Center for Journalists is one of four American non-governmental organizations that are the subject of an investigation by Egyptian authorities.

Five people working for us have been named in the case. The three Americans named have never worked full-time in Egypt for ICFJ (although in some Egyptian reports they have been described as “escaping” the country). Vice President of ICFJ Programs Patrick Butler, former Program Director Natasha Tynes and contractor Michelle Betz have supervised our Egypt programs as part of a larger portfolio of work done from Washington, D.C.

Two Egyptian staffers on the ground have also been charged, and their welfare is of the greatest concern.

At this point, we still do not know the exact details of the charges and alleged evidence. The Egyptian authorities say the NGOs under investigation were operating without a license. We have been seeking permission to register in Egypt, and we have always been transparent about our work there. Although our work was mainly conducted through our Egyptian partners, including universities and media organizations, last year our local lawyer advised us to register in Egypt as a branch of an international NGO. We were advised then to open an office first and show activity to merit registration, which we did.

As you know, ICFJ is a journalism organization that does not take political positions. Of course, we do not fund political activities, including protest movements. Our programs in Egypt are aimed at raising professional standards and helping citizen journalists gain reporting skills and digital know-how. The Egyptian government has officially registered a national association of citizen journalists that formed as a result of our work.

We are not an advocacy group except to advocate for good journalism. We have always maintained integrity and autonomy in every program we run. We are funded mainly through private funds, but also receive some U.S. government funding. In the Egypt programs, the vast majority of our trainers and media consultants are Egyptian.

Of foremost concern is our staff in Egypt, whom we hired in the second half of last year. We have a strong legal team representing them, and we remain in constant touch with them. As always, we will refrain from engaging in politics over this or any other issue. Nonetheless, we are working as hard as we can to resolve this matter. I can’t emphasize how much we appreciate your concern, backing and friendship, especially for our Egyptian colleagues.

Sincerely,

Joyce Barnathan
President
International Center for Journalists