Photo of journalist's ID, Mar. 25, 2018 - Photo courtesy of SIS's statement
CAIRO - 25 March 2018: The State Information Service has issued a statement Sunday outlining the deportation of a reporter from The Times, and outlining the reasons why.
On Friday, The Times' correspondent, Bel Trew, who has been reporting from and living in Egypt for seven years, published an article outlining her arrest by Egyptian authorities and her subsequent deportation. She claimed that her deportation made "no legal sense" and was baseless.
"My business in the café had been unremarkable: an interview with a penniless man whose nephew, a teenage migrant, had probably drowned at sea trying to get to Italy. He had been on board a migrant boat that vanished two years ago. For some months, I had been trying to piece together its story," Trew explained.
Her narrative further explained that while she was in the police station, the questions she was being asked took a "sinister turn". "Yet inside the police station, the questions were taking a sinister turn. An informer in the café had apparently told police that I was discussing the Egyptian state’s involvement in the sinking of a migrant boat off the coast of Rosetta in 2016 — an entirely different boat from the one we were discussing," she stated.
The State Information Service (SIS) issued a statement Sunday explaining why Trew was deported. First of all, the SIS stated that Trew was not deprived from her rights as she had stated in her article. Secondly, Trew was filming an interview in a cafe without a permit when she was detained; her working without a permit was one of the main reasons for her deportation.
The statement also explained that "Ms. Trew failed to apply for the Press Centre to issue a temporary press card, as is the case with all accredited foreign correspondents in Egypt. This is the first violation of Egyptian Law and regulations governing the work of foreign correspondents in Egypt."
The statement is as follows:
Deportation of The Times’ correspondent in Egypt for violating Law & accreditation regulations of foreign correspondents
Deportation in line with Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Over the past 24 hours, a number of foreign media outlets have republished the article by The Times’ correspondent Bel Trew regarding her deportation from Egypt more than a month ago. Those media outlets have not only republished and propagated Trew’s story without any scrutiny or submitting questions to the Egyptian authorities concerned in regard to its truth, but also have built upon her account to launch unwarranted attack in an unprofessional workmanlike manner against the so-called “oppression of freedom of the press, opinion and expression in Egypt”.
About that situation, the State Information Service wishes to make the following remarks with the intention to clarify the facts:
- As for Ms. Trew, she has been an accredited journalist in the Press Centre for Foreign Correspondents for five years during which she has never been questioned or reproached, not even once, regarding the content of her coverage of Egyptian affairs fraught with criticism, professional errors and erroneous information.
- Egypt, like other countries, has a clear and proclaimed system for issuing press accreditation for foreign correspondents, requiring every correspondent to have a press card issued and renewed annually by the Press Centre for Foreign Correspondents. Due to technical circumstances, the 2018 press cards have not been delivered to all foreign correspondents. Temporary press cards were issued for all correspondents until issuance of the 2018 permanent cards. Receipt of the temporary press cards began January 2018.
- Ms. Trew has not applied for the Press Centre to issue a temporary press card, as is the case with all accredited foreign correspondents in Egypt. This is the first violation of Egyptian Law and regulations governing the work of foreign correspondents in Egypt.
- According to her article, she went to “Shubra” district on 20 February 2018, 40 days after the beginning of issuing temporary press cards, without having one to practice
journalistic work. This is the second violation of Egyptian Law and regulations governing the work of foreign correspondents in Egypt. Ms. Trew filmed interviews in the street using video and photography equipments without having the necessary permits from the relevant authorities through the Press Centre.
- As a result of these two flagrant violations, the Egyptian relevant authorities took its decision to deport the British journalist, by virtue of the text of articles 13 and 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has been ratified by Egypt and in conformity with which Egypt has issued its code on entry and stay of foreigners.
Article 13 stipulates that "An alien lawfully in the territory of a State Party to the present Covenant may be expelled therefrom only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with law and shall, except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, be allowed to submit the reasons against his expulsion and to have his case reviewed by, and be represented for the purpose before, the competent authority or
a person or persons especially designated by the competent authority."
Article 19 stipulates that
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
The following observations also underscore the invalidity of Ms. Trew’s story and that of the media outlets which quoted her, considering her deportation a sign of “oppression of the freedom of press and expression”:
- The British journalist has submitted a request for issuing permit to cover the presidential
elections, while she was in Egypt, to the Press Centre on 11 January 2018. The National Egyptian Commission agreed to grant her the requested permit on 22 March 2018, more than a month following her departure. The requested permit was delivered to the Press Centre for Foreign Correspondents. Ms. Trew was notified of the issuance of the permit through the Press and Media Bureau of the Egyptian Embassy in London, as she is a resident there. Such a procedure negates the veracity of the content of her story quoted by many foreign media outlets. Because her request for a permit to cover the presidential elections was submitted in line with Egyptian Law and the regulations set by the National Egyptian Commission, it was issued regardless of her two aforementioned violations of Egyptian Law and regulations governing the work of foreign correspondents in Egypt, on the basis of which she was deported.
- Reaffirming the keenness of Egyptian authorities, foremost among which is the State Information Service, on the freedom of the press and expression in Egypt, 627 resident and visiting correspondents submitted requests for permits to cover the presidential elections and all were granted requested permits without exception. The criticism, professional errors and erroneous information included in the writings of some of those correspondents did not preclude the issuance of presidential elections permits. They were all granted requested permits. The keenness on the freedom of the press and expression is further underscored by two facts:
- The first is that there are 1200 accredited foreign correspondents in Egypt; only one of them was deported, a percentage less than one in a thousand, due to legal and instrumental reasons regardless of the numerous examples of erroneous professional practices and false information in their writings.
- The second fact is that since the January 2015 Revolution, not a single foreign correspondent was deported out of Egypt despite the difficult circumstances Egypt has been witnessing ever since.
The keenness of the State Information Service on the freedom of the press and expression for all foreign correspondents in Egypt is guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution. As such, facilitating their work is a core competence of the State Information Service. Nevertheless, commitment to the internationally recognized professional standards regarding the practice of journalism is also one of the most important duties of those working in this profession. In the current case, they are all the accredited foreign correspondents in Egypt.
Hence, the State Information Service considers this statement, besides being a clarification of the truth, a response and a correction of what some foreign newspapers and media outlets accredited in Egypt have published in this regard. In accordance with the right of reply and full knowledge of the truth, the State Information Service requests publishing this statement in line with the internationally recognized professional standards.