Congo says it expelled Reuters journalist for alleged immigration breach

DAKAR (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo said that it expelled a French journalist working for Reuters because she was in breach of immigration rules.

Sonia Rolley received a written summons on Tuesday to present herself to immigration police in Kinshasa, who she said confiscated her passport and put her on a flight to Paris via Addis Ababa. No reason for the decision was provided to her at the time, and she was not permitted to collect any personal belongings, she said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Congo's Ministry of Communications and Media said Rolley had not followed the required procedure to stay and exercise a profession in Congo and that she was "seen out with dignity."

Foreign journalists in Congo are required to have accreditation from the communications ministry and a "courtesy" work visa.

Rolley applied in September for the accreditation to take up an assignment coordinating Reuters news coverage in Congo. She was granted permission to cover a climate conference in the capital, Kinshasa, in October, while she waited for the application to be processed.

On Oct. 24, the day before Rolley's work visa was due to expire, she was issued with a tourism visa valid for three months while Reuters was seeking clarification on the status of her application.

At a news conference on Friday, communications minister Patrick Muyaya said, "I told her we would not be able to issue her the accreditation. From that moment, given that her visa would expire, she should have just left and maybe appeal."

Reuters said Rolley was issued with a visa by the authorities in Congo while she awaited accreditation to work for the news agency.

"We continue to offer Sonia assistance as we look to resolve the matter. Reuters will continue to report from Congo in an independent and impartial way, as we do around the world," Reuters said in a statement.

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Rosalba O'Brien)