Reporters Without Borders is horrified by what appears to be an all-out witch-hunt against news media that are covering events in Egypt and is very concerned for all the journalists currently in Cairo, especially on the eve of a major demonstration planned by President Hosni Mubarak’s opponents for tomorrow, which they are describing as the deadline for his departure.
“Theft, violence, arbitrary arrests and extreme violence... the list of abuses against journalists by President Mubarak’s supporters is getting longer by the hour and they are clearly systematic and concerted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.
“After shutting down the Internet and then reconnecting it at the start of this week, the regime has decided to target media personnel physically by unleashing its supporters in an unprecedented campaign of hatred and violence. This has gone beyond censorship. This is now about ridding Cairo of all journalists working for foreign news media.
“We urge all news media to reinforce their coordination in order to provide as much security as possible for their correspondents in Egypt. And we urge foreign governments and their embassies to provide the utmost diplomatic support for journalists from their countries when they find themselves in difficulty.”
Julliard added: “It seems that journalists are no longer safe anywhere in Cairo. Several news bureaux have also been attacked. The highest level of the Egyptian government must be held responsible for this policy of physical attacks. We urge the international community to adopt a strong unanimous position quickly, to draw the appropriate conclusions from the events of the past few days and to consider sanctions.”
Reporters Without Borders is aware of the following incidents involving journalists and news media. The list is far from exhaustive:
Journalists attacked: 26
Confiscated material: 4 cases
Media offices attacked: 1
Disappeared journalists: 3
1 journalist in coma
Since Wednesday 2 February
Many journalists who were attacked refused to give their names or identify the media organizations to which they are attached for fear of reprisals.
- Sylvain Castonguay, cameraman for CBC Canada, was punched in the face while covering the clashes between opponents and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak. Demonstrators helped him get out of the crowd. The army intervened to take him to his hotel.
- Mohamed Khayal and photographer Magdi Ibrahim of the Egyptian daily Al-Shoruk were injured and their camera destroyed when a group of men described as plain clothes policemen attacked the offices of the newspaper in Cairo.
- Military officers confiscated a press card and a SC memory card belonging to a journalist from Al-Masry al-Youm on the streets of Cairo. The newspaper evacuated its headquarters after hearing of the attack on Al-Shoruk.
- Individuals in civilian clothing surrounded the offices of Sawsan Abu Hussein, deputy editor of the Egyptian magazine October, after a call from her to a live television broadcast in which she reported the violence being used against demonstrators.
- Serge Dumont, a Belgian journalist who is correspondent in the Middle East for the Belgian daily Le Soir, Le Temps of Switzerland and France’s Voix du Nord arrested by the army intelligence services and accused of spying has been detained for two days.
- Anderson Cooper and Hala Gorim of CNN, Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Jerome Boehm of the BBC, Katie Couric of CBS and Lara Setrakian of Bloomberg were attacked by Mubarak supporters. According to Lara Setrakian their attackers saw the camera and threw themselves on it.
- Ahmed Bajano, correspondent ofAl-Arabiya, was beaten up. His film crew was attacked at the Mustafa Mahmud square at Mohandiseen by men in civilian dress. He suffered concussion and was taken to a nearby hospital.
- Ahmed Abdullah, also from the satellite television channel Al-Arabiya, was detained by Mubarak supporters. He was roughly handled and then freed.
- Steffen Jensen, a journalist from the Danish television station TV2 News, was attacked by a group of men after refusing to give them his cell phone and passport. They struck him with sticks.
- Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of the BBC was attacked in his car in the street by a group of “angry men.” He was handed over to the secret police who handcuffed and blindfolded him. With a colleague he was taken in for interrogation. They were freed after three hours.
- Pierre Barbancey of the French newspaper Humanité, Thomas Cantaloube of the French website Mediapart, Vincent Lafargue, freelance photographer and Sarah Mabrouk, freelance, were arrested by Mubarak supporters on their way back to their hotel. They were handed over to the military and held for two hours in a barracks near the city centre before being freed.
- Sahar Talat, correspondent in Egypt for the Spanish service of RFI, was surrounded and beaten by a crowd accusing her of being a spy for Al Jazeera before she managed to escape.
- A journalist working for the German channel ZDF and the New York Times was arrested on 2 February while driving from Alexandria to Cairo. She spent 20 hours in a high security institution in Cairo and was freed the following afternoon.
- Photographer Mohammed Omar, of the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), was attacked and suffered a head injury while taking pictures of the confrontations between opponents and backers of Mubarak in Tahrir Square on 2 February. He was arrested by troops soon after and released the next day.
- Dutch journalist Harald Doornbos of GPD was attacked by demonstrators armed with machetes while leaving the area of the clashes with his wife, a reporter for an Arab television station. The mob stopped their taxi and broke its windshield. Three Egyptians then mediated to save his life and that of his wife.
- Peter Stefanovic, the European correspondent of the Australian television station Channel 9, was forced out of his taxi by the police. With his crew he was questioned briefly in a police command center before being released. The hotel security services confiscated their second camera.
- A journalist from Fox TV Turkey, his Egyptian cameraman and their driver were kidnapped by men with knives while filming the demonstrations before being freed by police, according to the Turkish news agency Anatolia.
- Reporter Habel Robert and photographer Lutz Christian of the Swiss weekly L’Illustré were arrested and held in a tank. There has been no further news of them.
- Three photographers who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals said they had been followed by police officers into their hotel and beaten up. Another journalist said herd had been hit by stones thrown by plain clothes police.
- Three journalists from the French channel France 24 were detained and released after a few hours. One journalist from the French daily Le Figaro and three from the French TV station TF1 were also detained.
Image Courtesy of DayLife - This Thursday Feb. 1, 2011 photo shows injured Associated Press photographer Khalil Hamra during clashes between anti-government demonstrators and their pro-government supporters in Cairo's Tahrir square, Egypt. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media watchdog, said Thursday that it had recorded 24 detentions of journalists, 21 assaults and five cases in which equipment was detained over a 24-hour period. Foreign photographers reported attacks by supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the focal point of increasingly violent mass demonstrations demanding Mubarak step down after 30 years in power. - AP Photo