A local Egyptian NGO is attempting to revoke the licences of a Norwegian news team working in Egypt, after the latter’s company was involved in investigating alleged money-laundering crimes by an affiliate NGO based in Norway.
The Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights have submitted a lawsuit before the Administrative Court of the State Council to call for the revocation of journalist licences given to correspondent Sigurd Falkenberg and his Norwegian state television (NRK) team based in Cairo.
The Maat Foundation is connected to the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), a Norwegian-based NGO which is currently under investigation for money laundering activities, following investigative work by NRK. The organisation has been charged with laundering over NOK 100m (EGP 95m) in May this year.
State prosecutor Havard Kampen told the NRK that the money is believed to have been received from sources in the UAE, between one and three years ago, according to different media reports.
The Maat Foundation have said that they filed the lawsuit because “the Norwegian news company and its reporter Sigurd Falkenberg intentionally published lies related to GNRD’s stance and a number of its companies, and their rejection to alter fatal professional mistakes they made, including a lack of neutrality”.
Maat and the GNRD have accused Qatar of being behind a campaign against the GNRD, after the Norwegian police stormed their offices in June, arresting director Loay Deeb, along with seizing documents and computers. They were later released “without any explanation by officials”, the GNRD said.
However, NRK and the Norwegian government do not agree with the statements made by Maat and the GNRD. “We have seen that the case is being misrepresented by the GNRD but do not want to speculate why as it is under an ongoing police case,” Frode Overland Andersen, a spokesperson for Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Daily News Egypt.
Per Arne Kalbakk, news director at NRK, told Daily News Egypt that they will remain working in Egypt while the case is ongoing; “We have not been contacted by the Maat Foundation, GNRD, or any legal entity, we are still trying to find out what legal action to take. I don’t think this lawsuit requires us to stop working… but we still do not know what the case consists of.”
The Maat Foundation did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
According to Norwegian newspaper The Local, since the charges were levelled, the GNRD has been mounting a campaign against the Norwegian government with representatives of its many linked NGOs, stating during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Norway was acting like a “totalitarian regime”. The organisation has said that it will sue the Norwegian government for NOK 20bn in damages.
In June, Egypt-based Maat issued a statement it said was signed by 173 Egyptian civil society organisations in solidarity with the GNRD for the “systematic attacks” they face, “orchestrated by an Arab country hostile to the organisation, as a result of its criticism of the human rights record of the concerned country”.
Last September, BBC reported that Qatari authorities arrested two GNRD researchers for investigating human rights conditions of migrant workers in relation to the country’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, which has also raised global controversy.
Egypt, like the UAE, has strongly conflicted with the Qatari state in recent years.