The Al-Watan offices were vandalized and set on fire on Saturday. (AFP/Al-Watan)
The Al-Watan offices were vandalized and set on fire on Saturday. (AFP/Al-Watan)

Amid protests, Egyptian journalists, newspaper attacked

New York, March 14, 2013–Journalists have come under attack in three separate episodes amid protests in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, in at least two of which police were said to be assailants. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to hold all those responsible to account.

Police assaulted the crew of the private satellite channel CBC on Monday near the Qasr Al-Nil Bridge as they headed into the capital to film protests, CBC correspondent Hosam Hadaad told CPJ. Hadaad said police ordered soldiers to break the windows of their vehicle and started beating the journalists. The journalist said the officers confiscated a camera. One technician sought treatment for slight injuries at a local hospital, Hadaad said.

Police assaulted two photographers from the news website El-Badil on Saturday and briefly detained one of them, according to news reports. Agents in plainclothes beat Mohammad Ibrahim and Mohammed Saad while they were covering clashes between police and protesters on Nile Corniche Street in downtown Cairo, the reports said. Saad told El-Badil that he saw a police officer order soldiers to attack him and that he was then kicked and beaten and his wallet and money seized. He said he was also detained for five hours. 

In a third episode, assailants attacked the Cairo offices of Al-Watan newspaper on Saturday, according to news reports and an Al-Watan lawyer who spoke to CPJ. The attackers threw Molotov cocktails and vandalized the offices, causing severe property damage. Local news outlets speculated that the Ultras Ahlawy, hardcore fans of a soccer club that have led several violent protests in the capital, were responsible for the attack.

The Ultras Ahlawy group has denied responsibility for the attack, the online news website Ahram Online reported.

“Assaults by police on reporters and photographers covering protests are a sad throwback to the Mubarak era,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities need to send a clear signal that such violent attempts at censorship have no place in the new Egypt by holding those officers and their commanders to account. Equally, the authorities must investigate the attack on the Al-Watan offices and vigorously prosecute those responsible.”

Local journalists demonstratedn front of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate on Monday, calling for authorities to investigate attacks on their colleagues, news reports said.