Egypt's Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights has asked the court to revoke NRK's licence to do journalism in Egypt and expel its correspondent, the Cairo-based Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen.
The basis for their case is related to the fact NRK earlier this year revealed that Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), an NGO registered in Norway which has close links to Maat Foundation, has been involved in corruption and money laundering.
“We are aware that there will be a civil lawsuit against NRK, but it is difficult to clarify what the concrete charges are and where in the Egyptian legal system the case is to be tried,” Per Arne Kalbakk, NRK's news director, told Norway's Dagens Naeringsliv newspaper. “We have the impression that the matter is at an early stage in the system.”
GNRD, based in Stavanger, and its leader, the Palestinian-born Loai Deeb, were charged with laundering more than 100m Norwegian kroner ($13 million) in May this year.
Since, then GNRD has mounted a powerful campaign against the Norwegian state. Representatives of NGOs linked to GNRD claimed that Norway was acting like “a totalitarian regime” during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The organisation has also said that they plan to sue the Norwegian government for 20bn kroner in damages.
“We are aware that GNRD are trying to misrepresent The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økokrim)'s investigation of the organisation internationally,” Frode Overland Andersen, from Norway's Foreign Ministry, told Dagens Naeringsliv. “That is unfortunate. I don't want to speculate on what GNRD are trying to achieve with the misinformation.”
The Maat foundation claim that NRK's reporting of the case against GNRD was partial and unfair, and that NRK should therefore not be allowed to operate in Egypt.
Kalbakk said that NRK did not intend to let the lawsuit affect its work in Egypt.
“We don't believe we have been biased, and we will continue to engage in investigative journalism. The safety of our employees will always be important, but we will not let an angry organisation stop us from doing normal journalism in Egypt,” he said. “Considering that they are a human rights organisation, it seems that GNRD are strikingly unconcerned about freedom of the press.”