Camera crews detained; journalist attacked by thugs

New York, June 28, 2002—
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) protests the harassment by Egyptian police of several reporters covering yesterday’s runoff parliamentary elections in the northern city of Alexandria.

Egyptian police detained two journalists from U.A.E.­based Abu Dhabi TV and two others from German television channel ZDF as they tried to film at polling stations in Alexandria.

Hany Emara, a reporter for Abu Dhabi TV, told CPJ that he and his cameraman, Rida al-Shafie, were setting up their equipment near a police barricade when they asked a police officer for permission to enter the polling station in order to film. The officer responded by detaining the two journalists and taking them to the Raml Police Station.

Emara said that officials confiscated the tape from the camera and held he and his colleague at the station for about six hours. They were released just as the polling stations were closing.

Members of a ZDF film crew were detained at another polling station after police witnessed them filming physical confrontations between police and voters attempting to reach a polling station. Gihan Rushdy, a ZDF correspondent, told CPJ that she and her cameraman, Ayman Atef, were detained, along with their driver, and held for less than an hour at the Raml Police Station. Their film was also confiscated.

“We deplore these attempts by Egyptian police to prevent journalists from covering this story of national importance,” said CPJ executive director, Ann Cooper. “Detaining journalists and confiscating their footage is censorship.”

In a separate incident during the same runoff, police prevented Sarah El-Deeb of The Associated Press from entering a polling station. She said that at the time there were clashes between voters trying to get to the polling station and police who appeared to be barring them from entry. As El-Deeb was speaking to three would-be voters who could not get to the station, she was attacked by three women one of whom pulled her hair and hit her on the back of her neck. El-Deeb said that police, who were close by, did not intervene on her behalf.

Violence marred parliamentary elections in 2000, and several journalists were physically attacked or beaten by thugs that sources said were working for candidates belonging to President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. One journalist was attacked by police.