EIPR condemns BBC suspension and continued retaliation against its Egypt correspondent

Press Release

14 February 2024

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemned the decision of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to suspend its bilingual Egypt correspondent Sally Nabil and refer her to a disciplinary hearing over baseless accusations of breaching the corporation’s social media policy and bias against Israel. A member of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, Nabil is legally represented by EIPR. 

Nabil’s suspension for the second time within a few months is the latest episode in a series of retaliatory measures targeting her, EIPR said, and comes within a broader framework of McCarthyist attacks BBC has recently taken specifically against its Arab journalists as a result of pressures from pro-Israeli organisations aiming to intimidate them and influence their coverage of the ongoingIsraeli genocidal war in Gaza.

EIPR warned that the continued harassment of Sally Nabil constitutes reprisal by BBC directors in London due to her lawful union activity protected under Egyptian, British, and international laws. Nabil, who has worked for BBC for over ten years, played a leading role as a member of the committee representing workers in the BBC Cairo office, negotiating with the London management to defend the rights of their colleagues against the discriminatory policies of the British corporation which includes wage discrimination against them, compared to their counterparts in other offices.

Journalists at the Cairo office staged three strikes last year demanding equal pay with their counterparts before the dispute was resolved in September 2023 with negotiations led by the head of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, Khaled Elbalshy, with the management of the World Service, resulting in a new agreement on the salaries of journalists and employees in the Cairo office.

EIPR emphasised that Egyptian labour law protects those subject to its provisions from any retaliation based on political opinion as well as the current or previous representation of workers..

BBC management notified Nabil on Tuesday, 13 February, of her referral to a disciplinary hearing days after pro-Israel British The Telegraph published a report accusing her of “anti-Semitism” for allegedly ‘liking’ two tweets about Israel and Palestine on “X” (formerly known as Twitter). One tweet contained a statement by a former Israeli hostage released in Gaza expressing her “gratitude” towards her Hamas captives; while the other tweet referred to news articles published by Turkish newspapers about Israelis recently buying land in Cyprus.

Last October, BBC had suspended Nabil and three other journalists in the Cairo office, in addition to two journalists from its Beirut office, for the same reason, days after a similar report was published in the same British newspaper, accusing them of bias towards Palestine based on liking or reposting tweets on X website. The pro-Israeli newspaper report and the suspension decision were based on a campaign against the six journalists by a Zionist organisation called CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis), known for defending Israeli occupation crimes and targeting and intimidating journalists based on their work. BBC decided after six weeks to close the inquiry without disciplinary measures but cautioned the journalists to adhere to the corporation’s social media policy, despite the journalists’ insistence that they did not violate any of the policy’s provisions.

EIPR intends, along with its partners in the UK, to take all necessary legal measures to ensure the rights of Egyptian journalist Sally Nabil and all Egyptian and Arab journalists in the face of this McCarthyist campaign that violates the law, professional standards, and human rights norms.