Saturday, January 29, 2011

During Cairo protests, journalists find themselves in the firing line

During Cairo protests, journalists find themselves in the firing line

Saturday, 29 January 2011 | By Cyril Washbrook (contact the writer)

A defiant protester stands in front of a burning barricade on 28 January 2011 (Photo: Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak have been met with violent repression (Photo: Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

Journalists covering the anti-government protests in Cairo have been targeted by Egyptian security forces, with watchdogs and media organisations reporting that several media workers have been assaulted or detained this week.

Both local and international outlets have been targeted as part of Egypt's efforts to stop the flow of information through new and traditional media. President Hosni Mubarak has also ordered the shutdown of most internet and mobile phone services in the country.

One of the casualties of the violence was the BBC Arabicreporter Assad Sawey, who was beaten repeatedly by plainclothes police while watching the popular protests unfold in the capital. Sawey subsequently appeared on-air - covered with blood and his head bandaged - to give an account of what happened.

"Secret police, plainclothes police obviously were targeting journalists," Sawey told BBC News before being transported to hospital.

"They kind of surrounded us, from the back... and when they came they arrested me. I said: 'I'm BBC.' [But] they didn't care about BBC or any other organisation. They were targeting journalists deliberately."

The BBC's global news director, Peter Horrocks, condemned the assault and said that the corporation would be pursuing the matter with Egyptian officials.

"The BBC condemns this assault on one of our correspondents by the authorities. We shall be forcefully protesting this brutal action directly to the Egyptian authorities," he said.

Several other incidents involving the intimidation of journalists have been documented over the past five days. The Guardian's Jack Shenker was assaulted by police on Tuesday, while a CNN crew was threatened and had its equipment confiscated while attempting to report on yesterday's events.

Meanwhile, France's foreign ministry said on Friday that four detained French journalists had been released by Egyptian authorities. The journalists are employed by Le Figaro, Journal du Dimanche, Paris Match and the Sipa Press photographic agency.

Mubarak has declared that he intends to remain in power, despite calls from tens of thousands of protesters for his resignation after three decades at the helm. Troops and tanks were ordered into the streets on Friday night as part of his ongoing efforts to end the riots forcefully.

Television coverage by Al Jazeera and its international partner Al Jazeera English has been credited with giving greater prominence to the events in Egypt, as well as the uprising in Tunisia that began in December.

Media Spy discussion: International Journalism and Media

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