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Pro-Mubarak Forces and Police Thugs Attack Journalists

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Screen shot of a live report from senior Democracy Now! producer Sharif Kouddous, who has been filing live reports from Cairo.


*Also posted at WLCentral.org

One day after somewhere between one and two million protested in Tahrir Square and called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, pro-democracy protesters were not the only ones who faced violence from thugs or pro-Mubarak forces on Wednesday. Press reporting on the unfolding revolution in Egypt faced some of the worst attacks yet.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) both condemned the attacks on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Al-Arabiya and ABC News journalists. RWB reported Anderson Cooper of CNN, Jerome Boehm of the BBC and Lara Setrakian of Bloomberg were among those who were attacked by pro-Mubarak forces and suggested one journalist said, "As soon as they see a camera, they hurl themselves at it." The journalist who said that had stones thrown at him. Another reportedly was "kicked and had his camera ripped from his hands." CPJ put together a list worth sharing in its entirety:

Ahmed Bajano, an Al-Arabiya correspondent in Cairo, was beaten while covering a pro-Mubarak demonstration, according to news reports. Bajano and his camera crew were attacked in Mustafa Mahmoud Square by men in plainclothes. He suffered a concussion and was taken to a nearby hospital. Another Al-Arabiya journalist who spoke on the air via telephone but did not identify herself by name also reported that she had been beaten by plainclothes police or government-hired thugs. Al-Arabiya's Cairo office was attacked and its windows broken, the satellite station reported. Another network reporter said on the air that her colleague Ahmad Abdel Hadi was seized by what appeared to be pro-Mubarak supporters near Tahrir Square, forced in a car, and driven away. The reporter added that she has not been able to get through to Abdel Hadi on his mobile phone since.

A group of men described as "plainclothes police" attacked the headquarters of the independent daily Al-Shorouk in Cairo today, the paper reported. Reporter Mohamed Khayal and photographer Magdi Ibrahim were injured. Ibrahim's camera was smashed. The editorial team of another independent daily, Al-Masry al-Youm, decided to evacuate its headquarters in downtown Cairo after hearing about the attack on Al-Shorouk, according to the paper's website. The website also reported that army officers confiscated a press card and a memory card from one of its reporters on the street today.


Men in plainclothes surrounded the office of Sawsan Abu Hussein, deputy editor of the Egyptian magazine October after she called in to a television program to report on violence against protesters, Abu Hussein said on Al-Jazeera. The magazine's editor-in chief, Magdi al-Daqaq, a long time Mubarak supporter, was with the men, Abu Hussein told Al-Jazeera's anchor on the air.

Police arrested four Israeli journalists for allegedly violating the curfew in Cairo and for entering the country on tourist visas, according to news reports. Three of the journalists reportedly work for Israel's Channel 2, while the fourth reports for an unnamed Israel-based Arabic news website, according to news reports. But Channel 2 told CPJ that the station does not employ the three journalists. The names and correct affiliation of the arrested reporters remain unclear.

Belgian journalist Maurice Sarfatti, who writes under the name Serge Dumont and works as a Middle East correspondent for the Brussels-based Le Soir, Geneva-based Le Temps, and French newspaper La Voix du Nord, was beaten and arrested today while he was on assignment in the Shubra neighborhood in central Cairo, according a statement from Le Soir. Sarfatti sent the following to Le Soir from his mobile phone: "It was violent. I received a stream of blows to the face. They claimed that I was pro-Baradei. Then I was taken to a military barracks on the outskirts of town." Mohamed ElBaradei is a prominent opposition figure. He added, "I am under the care of 2 soldiers with Kalashnikov rifles and bayonets. They say I'll be taken to the secret services. They accuse me of being a spy."

CNN's Anderson Cooper and his crew were attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters in Tahrir Square. "We were set upon by pro-Mubarak supporters punching us in the head, attacking my producer Marianne Fox and my cameraman as well as trying to grab his camera, trying to break his camera," Cooper said on the air. "They didn't want any pictures taken," he added.

Two unnamed Associated Press correspondents were roughed up while covering a pro-Mubarak gathering, AP reported. Danish media reported that Danish senior Middle East Correspondent Steffen Jensen was beaten today by pro-Mubarak supporters with clubs while reporting live on the phone to Danish TV2 News from Cairo. The attackers demanded his phone and passport. Jensen said he is currently being held by soldiers in Tahrir Square. He said he does not know if the soldiers are holding him for safety reasons or if he is being officially detained. He has no serious injuries.

The BBC reported that its correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes' car was forced off the road in Cairo "by a group of angry men." He has detained by the men, who handed him off to secret police agents who handcuffed and blindfolded him and an unnamed colleague and took them to an interrogation room. They were released after three hours.

Jon Bjorgvinsson, a correspondent for RUV, Iceland's national broadcaster, but on assignment for Swiss television in Cairo, was attacked on Tuesday as he and a crew were filming. The journalist and his team were apparently accused of being foreign spies, according to Icelandic news website Ice News. Bjorgvinsson was "knocked to the ground, his camera was broken, and his clothes were ripped." Ice News reported that, according to RUV, police arrested the television station's other cameraman, which the site did not name.

Al-Jazeera continues to face pressure from the government-owned Nilesat satellite provider. The network reported that it will take legal actions against Nilesat's management and that the station will demand compensation for the blockage of its signal. The Qatar-based station also reported that Jordanian Media City, a private media hub, informed Al-Jazeera that it is facing pressure from Nilesat management to remove the station from the media bundle it provides to viewers.

CBS reported the military prevented it from filming and "marched the camera crew back to its hotel at gunpoint." Lara Logan, CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent said, "We can go out without cameras, but even then we are being watched everywhere that we go and we are being confronted"We are definitely being prevented from telling the story. People are increasingly afraid to talk to us."

ABC's Christiane Amanpour had thugs surround her and shout, "We hate Americans" and "Go to hell." People surrounded her car and pounded and rocked it. Someone threw a rock and shattered the windshield. An Al Jazeera producer in Cairo reported that the Hilton Hotel staff were checking all the rooms for cameras and then the security was confiscating them.

Blogging for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote, "It's difficult to know what is happening, and I'm only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown."

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 

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The freedom to complain about economic or sexual h... by morris wise on Thursday, Feb 3, 2011 at 11:48:11 AM