Al-Jazeera cameramen detained by security forces

New York, March 8, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed at the recent detention of two Al-Jazeera cameramen by Egyptian security forces.

Mohamed Ezzedine El-Najjar and Mohamed Eid Galal were filming a pro-Palestinian student protest at the campus of Alexandria University on the morning of March 5, according to sources at Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau.

Egyptian security officers approached El-Najjar and Galal as the two journalists were loading equipment into their car. El-Najjar and Galal displayed their press credentials, but were told that they did not have permission to film and would be taken in for questioning at the Bab Sharq police station.

After several hours of questioning, El-Najjar was released but Galal spent the night in the police station. The following morning, he appeared before a judge who ordered him released.

Al-Jazeera retrieved its equipment undamaged, but the tape that contained footage of the protest was not returned.

In recent months, Egyptian authorities have been unusually sensitive about press coverage of anti-American and pro-Palestinian demonstrations, CPJ sources said.

“Detaining journalists arbitrarily and confiscating their equipment are both serious violations of press freedom,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Egyptian authorities to return Al-Jazeera’s footage immediately.”