Protesters throw stones at Egyptian soldiers during clashes in Cairo on Sunday. (AP/Nasser Nasser)
Protesters throw stones at Egyptian soldiers during clashes in Cairo on Sunday. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

In Egypt, press freedom abuses must be investigated

New York, December 19, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Egyptian authorities to halt the assaults on journalists and attacks on news outlets which are effectively censoring coverage of ongoing protests in Cairo. In recent days, CPJ has documented at least 15 attacks on the press during clashes between security forces and protesters in central Cairo.

In the past four days, uniformed and plainclothes security forces assaulted and detained journalists, destroyed and confiscated media equipment, and targeted news outlets. Since Friday, 14 people died, and hundreds were injured, in the clashes, according to The Associated Press.

“Military authorities must stop using violence as a form of censoring the press who are exposing their violent suppression of protests in the streets of Cairo,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The Egyptian government must ensure that additional attacks on the media are prevented and must also guarantee that the attacks that have already occurred are thoroughly investigated.”

In the past four days, CPJ documented the following list of violations:

  • Evan Hill, an online producer for Al-Jazeera English, was beaten and briefly detained by security forces on Friday in Cairo’s Cabinet building, his employer reported. His phone, camera, and passport were confiscated. Hill wrote on Twitter: “Soldiers and men in plainclothes beat me with batons, wooden sticks and once with a crowbar before I was taken inside.
  • On Saturday, the transmission tower of the local TV production company Cairo News Company (CNC), in the Ismailiya Hotel near Tahrir Square, was raided by 30 army soldiers, according to CNC. The soldiers threw the company’s filming and transmission equipment out of the window, which was a loss of about US$100,000 worth of equipment, CNC said. The crew was terrified but escaped.
  • A group of soldiers raided a building housing several media offices in Tahrir Square on Saturday after footage was aired of a woman being beaten, kicked, and stripped by security forces, news outlets reported. The group targeted the offices of the privately owned satellite broadcaster ONTV and Al-Jazeera, destroying equipment, confiscating cameras and videotapes, and disrupting their broadcasts. An Al-Jazeera staff member was reportedly detained for two hours after the raid, according to local press freedom groups.
  • The live feed of an Egyptian satellite broadcaster CBC+2 was stopped on Saturday after the station aired a video showing riot police beating a civilian as he lay motionless in the middle of Qasr al-Aini Street near Tahrir Square, several news outlets reported. On the same day, after the broadcaster aired video footage of security forces beating and kicking a veiled woman and dragging her down the street in her bra, the live feed was interrupted for the second time.
  • Joseph Mayton, an American journalist and editor-in-chief of the independent news website Bikyamasr, was detained by security forces for 11 hours on Saturday after he covered clashes between protesters and security forces in front of the Cabinet building on Qasr al-Aini Street, according to Bikyamasr. In a statement, Mayton said: “They proceeded to go through every file on the computer, deleting all things they felt ‘were not appropriate to tell of Egypt.’ Then they re-formatted my computer and handed it back.”
  • Omar Saeed, a journalist for the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, was beaten in front of the Cabinet building by security forces while covering the clashes on Saturday, according to news reports. He sustained an eye injury.
  • Hassan Shahine, an editor for the independent daily Al-Badil, was beaten in front of the Cabinet building by security forces while he covered the clashes on Saturday, according to news reports. He had several bruises on his face and body.
  • Shaimaa Adel and Sara Nour Eddine, two reporters for the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm, were briefly detained by security forces on Saturday while covering events in and around Tahrir Square, according to news reports.
  • Ashraf al-Wardany, a journalist for the online newspaper Al-Msaeyah, was detained by security forces for four hours on Saturday even after he showed the uniformed men his press credentials. He was taken into the Cabinet building and beaten, according to news reports.
  • Sami Magdy, a reporter for the local news website Masrawy, was detained by security forces for five hours on Saturday inside the Cabinet building, according to a statement on Masrawy.
  • A group of unidentified armed men in plainclothes stormed the hotel room of journalists from the radio station France Culture on Saturday as they were preparing to interview Egyptian writer Alaa al-Aswany. They were assaulted and their equipment was broken, according to news reports.
  • On Saturday, security forces raided an apartment overlooking Tahrir Square that is known to host several journalists reporting events below. Officials smashed the journalists’ cameras and other equipment, the New York Times reported.
  • Sharif Abdel Kouddous, a correspondent for U.S.-based syndicated broadcast program Democracy Now!, reported that military forces confiscated two of his cameras. Kouddous also said he saw them take cameras from Al-Jazeera reporters on Saturday, according to the broadcaster’s website.

This fresh wave of attacks comes on the heels of intense clashes in November between protesters and security forces in Cairo and Alexandria. CPJ documented 35 cases of journalists who were shot at, sexually assaulted, beaten, or detained over a period of six days.