Two Egyptian journalists attacked in Alexandria

New York, April 26, 2012–Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood assaulted two Egyptian journalists seeking to cover a public conference held on Tuesday in Alexandria by a presidential candidate of the brotherhood’s political party, according to news reports. 

“All journalists have a right to cover candidates in a democratic election,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “We strongly condemn this attack on journalists who were just trying to do their job.”

About 10 Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked Nessreen Fouad, a reporter for the Arab News Agency and the Egyptian broadcaster Al-Nahar TV, and Hanna Abu el-Ez, a correspondent for the daily Youm7, as they attempted to enter a public conference held by Mohamed Morsi, the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, according to news reports. The Muslim Brotherhood, an independent Islamic movement outlawed under the former regime of Hosni Mubarak, now holds a majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament through its political party.

When Fouad and el-Ez identified themselves at the entrance of the venue, the organizers accused them of being hired thugs and said they were not respectable women, the two told CPJ. A group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters then began to attack them, hitting Fouad in the stomach and leg and tugging the veil off el-Ez’s head and pulling her hair, the journalists told CPJ. Fouad said she sustained bruises on her left leg and stomach.

When the journalists were finally able to enter the venue, the attackers accused them of starting the fight, the journalists told CPJ. When Fouad showed them a digital recording of the attack, she said the assailants backed off and instead tried to calm the journalists down.

Fouad and el-Ez filed a complaint with the police against Morsi and his supporters, they told CPJ. They also said that ever since the attack, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had used social networking sites to claim that they were hired thugs and had framed the organizers of the conference.

Youm7 reported yesterday that a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood had apologized to the journalists at the conference, citing poor organization and congestion as reasons for the attack. The group has not issued a formal statement.

CPJ documented a spike in attacks in February against journalists in Cairo and Suez. In December and November alone, CPJ documented 50 anti-press attacks during clashes between protestors and security forces in Egypt.