British journalist for The Times expelled from Egypt

Ms Bel Trew was reportedly held after interviewing a relative of a man who died on a migrant boat to Europe.
Ms Bel Trew was reportedly held after interviewing a relative of a man who died on a migrant boat to Europe.PHOTO: TWITTER/BEL TREW

LONDON (AFP) - A British journalist for The Times has been expelled from Egypt, the newspaper said on Saturday (March 24), in a move it said reflected the "oppressive environment" created there for the press.

Ms Bel Trew was driven to the airport and forced to board a flight in February, but the London-based paper held off commenting publicly as it sought to negotiate her return to cover elections starting on Monday.

This had proved fruitless, and a spokeswoman said: "The Times deplores this attempt to intimidate and suppress our coverage."

"This is sadly in line with the oppressive environment that President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi has created for the press."

The paper said Ms Trew, who had lived in Cairo for seven years and had been reporting for The Times since 2013, was held after interviewing a relative of a man who died on a migrant boat to Europe.

"In late February, Bel Trew was arrested and forced to leave. Her detention and the threats made against her were sufficiently outlandish to suggest a mistake had been made," the spokeswoman said.

"We have been trying to ensure her safe return to Cairo to cover the presidential election. It is now clear that the authorities have no intention of allowing her to return."

A spokesman for the British embassy in Cairo told the paper that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson "has raised the case directly with the Egyptian Foreign Minister".

"The Egyptian authorities have not shared any evidence of wrongdoing. We will continue to press them on this," the spokesman said.

AFP sought a response from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, but it was not immediately available.

The media in Egypt have been under close scrutiny in the lead-up to the elections, in which Mr Sisi is the main choice on the ballot paper.

There has been an increase in the number of cases of journalists being arrested and websites blocked.