he Egyptian government today ordered the correspondent of the influential French newspaper Le Monde to leave the country, marking the second expulsion of a Western reporter this week.
The official Middle East News Agency said Egypt had decided to expel Jean-Pierre Peroncel-Hugoz, who has been Le Monde's Cairo bureau chief for eight years, because of his "negative way of reporting on Egypt."
The government accused Peroncel-Hugoz of "making up stories" that had created suspicion in the mind of his readers regarding the stability of Egypt, and it charged he had engaged in "deliberate sabotage" of Egyptian relations with other countries.
Peroncel-Hugoz denied the charges and said that, unlike some other correspondents who had criticized the government of President Anwar Sadat, he was personally neither for nor against it and had never taken issue with Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.
Peroncel-Hugoz was originally ordered to leave the country within three days. However, following an appeal by the French charge d'affaires in Cairo, the government lengthened the deadline by at least a week, United Press International reported.
American correspondent Chris Harper, of ABC television, was expelled from Egypt Thursday on similar charges.
Sadad made a violent attack on Western news coverage of his government at a press conference Wednesday, accusing a number of U.S. columnists, newspapers and magazines of ruining Egypt's image by reporting "distorted facts" about the state of his country relayed to them by "haters" of his rule.
Shafei Abdel-Hamid, head of the government office dealing with foreign correspondents, said the expulsions did not mean the government had any intention of imposing censorship and that reporters would still be able to "report normally."
The actions against Western correspondents coincide with the most sweeping crackdown on religious extremists and opposition elements since Sadat came to power 11 years ago. More than 1,500 persons have been arrested, seven publications closed down and a number of other stiff measures taken to end sectarian strife and criticism of the government at home.
Sadat appears also to be trying to halt reporting abroad that he regards as detrimental to his image and likely to raise doubts about the stability and reliability of his government, particularly in the United States, his most important foreign backer.
He has been outraged by comparisons in the American press between him and the late shah of Iran and those being drawn between events here and those that led to the downfall of the shah in 1979.
Harper's expulsion was announced immediately after the government showed the foreign press corps a confiscated videotape recording of an interview Harper had conducted in late July in Beirut with David Hirst, a British journalist whose writings have been critical of Sadat's government.
The Egyptian leader charged that the interview was part of a special program ABC was preparing to broadcast during Sadat's visit to the United States last month and was aimed at undermining the visit by comparing Sadat to the shah.
Sadat's remarks indicate a belief that there is a kind of conspiracy to discredit him between his chief opponents at home and the foreign media, which has been giving increasing attention to what his critics are saying.
Sadat insists that there is no real serious opposition to his government or policies--just political opponents who are feeding "lies" and distorted facts" to the foreign media.
At his press conference Wednesday, Sadat said he did not intend to reimpose censorship, which he abolished in 1974. Nonetheless, the expulsion of the two correspondents has raised serious concern within the foreign press corps that Sadat might be seeking to impose a kind of self-censorship.
A chilling if apparently joking remark by Sadat about a correspondent who asked an irritating question at the press conference added to that concern. Asked by NBC television correspondent Paul Miller whether he had received President Reagan's blessings for his crackdown on sectarian extremists and opposition elements, Sadat flew into a rage and later remarked, "In other times, I would have shot him, really, but it is democracy I am suffering from as much as . . . the opposition."
Heretofore, Sadat has been treated by the U.S. news media generally as a remarkable world statesman largely above criticism because of his courageous initiative in traveling to Jerusalem in 1977 and then signing a peace agreement with Israel two years later.
Until recently, he has basked in the glow of such coverage and is still probably one of the more popular foreign leaders with the American public.
But the failure of Egypt and Israel to reach an overall Middle East peace settlement resolving the burning Palestinian issue and signs of political troubles at home have begun to raise some doubts among Western correspondents.
Because Sadat has cracked down hardest on right-wing Moslem fundamentalists who are ideologically akin to those who caused the shah's overthrow, several correspondents here, as well as abroad, have begun to draw parallels between the two situations.
The Cairo press corps, numbering more than 450 registered correspondents and television personnel, is the largest anywhere in the Middle East. With no civil strife, as in Lebanon, or censorship, and with ever-improving communications and material conditions, Cairo has become the favorite base for most regional correspondents.
The State Information Services, which has responsibility for the press corps, sought to reassure correspondents after Harper's expulsion that his was a special case and that others have nothing to fear.
They are saying the same thing again this time, pointing out that Le Monde's Peroncel-Hugoz already had been warned three times and arguing that for several years there has been a pattern of consistent negative reporting on Egypt in Peroncel-Hugoz's newspaper.
Nevertheless, the impression remains that the government is tightening up, along with the concern that censorship, although its rules are unspoken and unwritten, is being imposed for the first time in seven years.