CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt said on Sunday it had deported a British journalist for the Times newspaper last month because she was working illegally.
The Times said on Saturday its correspondent, 33-year-old Bel Trew, who had been based in Cairo for several years, was arrested while reporting on a migrant boat that had vanished two years ago.
The newspaper described an “increasingly oppressive environment” for media in Egypt ahead of a presidential election starting on Monday.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), which oversees the accreditation of foreign journalists, said in a statement Trew had been expelled partly because she had not applied for a temporary press card, saying this was a “violation”.
Trew had, however, applied for an annual accreditation card, which she had held for the past five years, SIS said. Annual cards for all foreign journalists had been delayed this year due to “technical circumstances”, it said.
SIS also criticised her reporting during the past five years as containing “erroneous information”.
The Times said in an emailed response to a request for comment that Trew had not applied for a temporary card because SIS told her she was still accredited and “all was well”.
Trew went to a Cairo district in February “to practise journalistic work without permission” and “as a result of these two flagrant violations” authorities decided to deport her, SIS said.
SIS criticised foreign media for reporting on Trew’s expulsion without seeking government comment. Reuters sought comment on Saturday from SIS, the interior ministry and Sisi’s office before reporting Trew’s deportation, but calls and messages were not answered after several hours.
Egypt’s public prosecutor told state prosecutors last month to take legal action against media outlets found to be publishing false news, statements and rumours, following strong official criticism of some foreign media coverage in Egypt.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said this month any insult by a media organisation of the army or police was defamation of the country and treason.
Trew wrote in The Times that she was detained by police in central Cairo after conducting an interview with “a man whose nephew, a teenage migrant, had probably drowned at sea trying to get to Italy”. She was held for hours, then “marched onto a plane” for London.
Rights groups say authorities have cracked down on press freedom in the run-up to the March 26-28 presidential election, in which Sisi faces no credible challengers.
Editing by Peter Graff