Egyptian authorities denied entry to a veteran New York Times reporter without explanation, the latest move in the country’s crackdown on free speech and the media.
Security officials held the former Cairo bureau chief for seven hours without food or water after confiscating his mobile phone, before sending him back on an EgyptAir flight to London on Tuesday, the newspaper said.
“We are deeply disturbed that the government of Egypt detained our correspondent, kept him incommunicado, denied him food or water, and refused to allow him into the country,” Michael Slackman, international editor of The New York Times, said in a statement.
Egypt’s interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Kirkpatrick was the newspaper’s Cairo bureau chief from 2011 to 2015 and last year authored a book on the Arab Spring uprisings.
His writings have long stirred controversy and pro-government media in Egypt have previously criticised his reporting.
In 2018, pro-government newspaper Youm7 accused Kirkpatrick of “deliberately distorting Egypt’s [image]” after he reported on Egyptian officials’ “tacit acceptance” of the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Kirkpatrick’s denial of entry is part of a broader crackdown on media in Egypt in recent years.
Egypt under general-turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has launched an unprecedented assault on Egyptian journalists, imprisoning dozens and occasionally expelling foreign journalists.
Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced a television host to one year in prison for interviewing a gay man.
A British journalist was expelled in February 2018 with officials claiming she broke the law by conducting interviews without a press permit.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Hussein, who has yet to be formally charged, has been in detention and kept in solitary confinement since December 2016. Hussein has now spent 789 days in prison.
He is accused of “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation” – charges long denied by Al Jazeera Media Network.
“Egypt has long been a centre of the international press in the Middle East, a role that is now severely threatened,” Slackman said. “A free and open press is more essential than ever.”
A new law ratified in September tightened internet controls, granting authorities powers to monitor popular social media accounts and block those found publishing “fake news”.
Rights groups say such legislation aims to strengthen state control of the media and curb freedom of expression.
Egypt ranked 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index in 2018 and 2017.