A British reporter with the Times of London was arrested and deported from Egypt late last month, the newspaper has said, denouncing “the oppressive environment” for journalists created in the country by authorities before a presidential election.
Bel Trew was detained on February 20 in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, after interviewing a relative of a man who died on a migrant boat to Europe, the Times said in a statement on Saturday.
She was not provided with an official explanation for her detention and no charges were brought against her, the London-based newspaper said.
In an account published in the Times, Trew said she was marched on to a plane less than 24 hours after her arrest “with nothing but the clothes I was standing up in”.
During her detention, she was threatened with a military trial, she wrote. Egyptian police officers also mocked her for being scared and filmed her on a mobile phone.
“The choice before me – stay for a military trial or leave – was no kind of choice,” she said.
I've lived in #Egypt for 7 years, it's my beloved home and I'm not sure when I can return. I was arrested after doing an interview and threatened with military trial unless I got on a plane. Like others, I still don't know what happened:https://t.co/m5EmyP8bg7
— Bel Trew (@Beltrew) March 24, 2018
Trew, 33, had been living in Cairo for seven years and reporting for the Times from there since 2013.
The newspaper said it held back from reporting on her deportation until Saturday as it was trying to return her to Cairo to cover the country’s upcoming presidential election, which starts on Monday.
“Her detention and the threats made against her were sufficiently outlandish to suggest a mistake had been made,” a spokeswoman for the Times said. But it “is now clear the authorities have no intention of allowing her to return”.
The Times spokeswoman said the “attempt to intimidate and suppress our coverage” was “sadly in line with the oppressive environment that President [Abdel Fattah el-]Sisi has created for the press”.
In her account, Trew said authorities in Cairo have registered her on a list of “undesirable people” and made it clear to her that she would be arrested if she attempted to return.
“I can’t go back to my home of seven years. Nobody can explain why,” she wrote.
The British embassy in Cairo said it raised the case with Egypt’s foreign minister.
“The Egyptian authorities have not shared any evidence of wrongdoing. We will continue to press them on this,” a spokesman for the embassy told the Times.
Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom group based in New York, said Sisi’s government intensified censorship in the country since he announced his election bid in January.
He is standing virtually unopposed.
At least four journalists have been arrested after interviewing opposition candidates, being critical of Sisi or for having alleged links to opposition or activist groups, the CPJ said.
All four were arrested in late February and remain in police custody.
Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation also banned in February four entertainment and satirical shows on moral grounds, according to media reports.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussain, an Egyptian national, has spent more than a year behind bars in Egypt on charges of disseminating “false news”. Al Jazeera denies the allegations against him.