Security forces throw stones back at protesters in Cairo on Friday. Thousands marched to denounce violence against demonstrators and the exclusion of candidates from the presidential election. (Reuters)
Security forces throw stones back at protesters in Cairo on Friday. Thousands marched to denounce violence against demonstrators and the exclusion of candidates from the presidential election. (Reuters)

At least 18 journalists assaulted or arrested in Egypt

New York, May 4, 2012–At least 18 journalists have been assaulted, injured, or arrested in the past three days while covering clashes between protesters and thugs and uniformed military personnel in front of the defense ministry in the neighborhood of Abbasiya in Cairo, according to news reports.

“Authorities cannot stand by while journalists are being beaten–at times so viciously that their lives are put at risk,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to identify the attackers and bring them to justice immediately, as well as to release journalists in custody. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without threat of physical assault or arrest.”

Intense clashes in front of the defense ministry between protesters on the one hand and armed thugs and uniformed military personnel on the other began on Wednesday with at least 11 people killed and hundreds injured, according to news reports. The demonstrations began as a sit-in protesting the exclusion of a would-be presidential candidate, but other groups soon joined. Today’s protests were largely in response to the deaths in Wednesday’s clashes, news reports said. The military stepped in today to clear protesters out of Abbasiya Square; the demonstrators were met not only by uniformed personnel but also unidentified thugs with guns and batons, firing pellets and live bullets and assaulting hundreds of people, news reports said.

Mohamed Raafat was the most badly injured. A reporter for the news website Masrawy, he was beaten and shot at with pellets by three unidentified armed men who noticed him filming them as they were assaulting protesters on Wednesday in Abbasiya, his employer reported. The three men confiscated his camera and continued to beat the journalist for one hour, Raafat said in a phone interview from his hospital bed on privately owned satellite broadcaster ONTV. Rafaat was severely beaten, as shown in several graphic photographs of him published on Masrawy‘s website after his assault. Raafat sustained multiple injuries to his head, back, face, and the rest of his body, he said. The journalist was taken to the hospital and received 25 stitches in his head, he said in the interview.

Today, Abd al-Rahman Yousef, a photographer for the independent news site Hoqook, was taking pictures of the clashes when an unidentified man approached him with a knife and cut part of his ear off, his employer reported. Yousef has been unable to reach a hospital due to the military surrounding the square and preventing anyone from getting out, the report said.

Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abu al-Ezz, both working for the independent daily Al-Badil, were arrested today while covering the clashes in Abbasiya, according to the newspaper. The two journalists were assaulted and captured by unidentified thugs and handed over to the military, the report said. The two journalists were taken in a military vehicle to the military prosecutor’s office, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Khaled el-Balshy, posted on his Twitter account.

A crew of seven cameramen and correspondents from the satellite broadcaster Misr25 — Ahmed Lotfy, Hassan Khodry, Ahmed Fadl, Musaab Hamid, Ahmed Abd al-Alim, Mohamed Rabie, and Mohamed Amin — was arrested today while covering the clashes, the broadcaster reported on the air. Abd al-Alim told Misr25 that he and about 70 other people who were being transported in a vehicle by security forces were being viciously beaten, the broadcaster said. 

Virgine Nyugen, a Belgian photojournalist for the English-language daily Egypt Independent, was injured in the face while covering clashes in Abbasiya today and taken to Ain Shams hospital for treatment, according to news reports. Military forces entered the hospital and arrested her and took her to a state security office, multiple local journalists reported from their Twitter accounts. She was questioned briefly and released three hours later, according to the same sources. Mohamed al-Shami, a journalist from the Arabic-language sister publication Al-Masry Al-Youm, was also arrested, Abeer Saadi, an Egyptian Journalists Syndicate board member, told Al-Badil.

Abd al-Rahman Musharaf, a reporter for Egypt’s newest daily, El-Watan, was arrested and beaten today by military police while covering the clashes in Abbasiya and remains in custody, his employer reported. Three other El-Watan journalists covering the clashes — Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Abdu, and Ahmed Bahnasi — were rushed to the hospital suffering the effects of tear gas, the newspaper reported.

Kamel was also assaulted by a group of protesters while covering the clashes yesterday, El-Watan added. Mohamed Amr, a photographer for the daily, was hit by stones thrown by unidentified assailants while taking pictures yesterday, the newspaper said. Amr received three stitches for his injury.

This week’s assaults and arrests in Egypt mark the largest spate of attacks on the press since 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 protesters and security forces in Egypt.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text of the alert has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of the daily El-Watan.