Egyptian police raid Al-Jazeera offices again

New York, September 29, 2011–Egyptian plainclothes police stormed the office of an Al-Jazeera affiliate today for the second time this month, detaining a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the raid and calls on the authorities to end what has become a policy of censorship and intimidation of the media.

Some 25 plainclothes police entered the new office of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Al-Jazeera Live Egypt) in the al-Agouza district of Cairo. They roughed up staff members and detained journalist Mohamed Suleiman. They broke down the front door of the office, which is under construction, claiming they had a warrant but failed to present it, a statement on the channel’s website said. They demanded staff’s identification cards and confiscated some office equipment, Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, a producer for the station, told CPJ. He said the station’s lawyer was not allowed to accompany Suleiman as he was taken to the prosecutor’s office in al-Agouza. Suleiman was released within a few hours, the broadcaster said on the air.

“Egyptian authorities have been resorting, with increasing frequency, to censorship and intimidation as their standard for dealing with independent or opposition media,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Video footage of the incident leaves little doubt that the raid was designed to intimidate journalists.”

On September 11, Egyptian police raided the channel’s previous office, shutting down live 24-hour broadcasts from Cairo and detaining engineer Islam al-Banna for a day. The channel has been broadcasting live from Doha since that incident.

On September 24, authorities halted production of the Saturday edition of the independent weekly Sawt al-Umma, while the daily Rose al-Youssef was prevented from printing a page in Tuesday’s paper. Also recently, Egypt’s Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it will enforce the Mubarak-era Emergency Law, which allows for civilians, including journalists, to be detained indefinitely and tried in state security courts. The military has also announced a “temporary freeze” on issuing licenses to satellite television stations and ordered local print media to obtain approval for all mentions of the armed forces before publication. This spring, a military tribunal sentenced blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison for “insulting the military.”