New York, November 21, 2011 – Clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities have led to at least 17 assaults on the press over the past couple of days, including a shooting, detentions, and a beating by unidentified security personnel while in custody. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to bring them to an immediate end.
“Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without threat of assault,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Furthermore, prosecutors have an obligation to investigate claims of abuse by military and police against journalists.”
Since Saturday, Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been occupied by protesters demanding an end to military rule. They were met by security forces firing live and rubber ammunition, deploying tear gas bombs, and assaulting scores of people, according to news reports. As of Monday, at least 33 people had been killed and thousands injured as a result of the clashes, several news outlets reported.
Today, Maher Iskandar, a photographer for the daily Youm7, was shot in the left leg while filming clashes in Tahrir Square, the daily reported. Iskandar was taken to a field hospital in close proximity to the central Cairo square.
Military and police units attacked at least 10 journalists in and around Tahrir Square on Sunday, Karem Mahmoud, secretary-general of Egypt’s press syndicate, told CPJ. The journalists include: Rasha Azab, editor for the independent Al-Fagr; Omar al-Zohairi and Motaz Zaki, both photographers for the independent daily Al-Tahrir; Mahmoud al-Hefnaoui, editor for Youm7; Mohamed Kamel, an editor for the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm and Adanob Emad, Tarek Wageeh, and Ahmed Abd al-Fattah, all photographers for the same independent daily; Amr Gamal, an editor for the website Al-Hurriya wa Al-Adala, a nascent youth group; and Saad Abid, a freelance photographer.
Abd al-Fattah, who sustained an eye injury, and Azab were still recovering from their injuries in hospital today, according to the syndicate. Gamal and Zaki were detained for several hours, the syndicate said.
In Alexandria on Sunday, police attacked six journalists, one of whom was taken into detention for six hours and repeatedly beaten, Mahmoud told CPJ. That reporter, Sarhan Sinara with the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, was assaulted and detained by unidentified security personnel, then repeatedly beaten with a club, Mahmoud said. Sinara is recovering from his injuries at home.
The five other journalists who were assaulted and suffered injuries in Alexandria on Sunday are: Ahmed Tarek, an editor for the official Middle East News Agency; Ahmed Ramadan, a photographer for Al-Tahrir; Mohamed Fuad and Essam Amer, Alexandria office director and editor, respectively, for Al-Shorouk; and Rafi Mohamed Shakir, a photographer for Al-Shorouk, the syndicate told CPJ and said in a statement released today.
CPJ could not determine the exact type of attacks on all of the journalists nor the extent of injuries they sustained.
The six journalists attacked in Alexandria submitted a formal complaint today to prosecutors accusing the chief of the Alexandria Security Directorate of being responsible for the physical assaults, local media reported. The complaint says that Sinara was repeatedly beaten before and after he brandished his credentials and identified himself as a journalist. He was also prevented from taking medication for the duration of his time in custody, the reports said.
The military leadership has offered no explanation regarding the attacks on journalists.