Journalists attacked in Egypt over the weekend

New York, March 19, 2013–At least 14 journalists were attacked by police and supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood group outside the group’s headquarters in Cairo on Saturday and Sunday, according to news reports and local journalists.

“The attackers want to prevent the public from getting a full picture of the country’s political discontent by trying to silence the journalists witnessing these protests,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on the Egyptian authorities to fully investigate these deplorable assaults and hold everyone, including police officers, accountable under the law.”

Members and supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood group clashed with activists attempting to spray anti-party graffiti outside the group headquarters on Saturday, according to news reports. The members threatened several journalists covering the rally, saying they would break their equipment if they did not leave, according to witnesses and local journalists who spoke to CPJ.

At least eight journalists were attacked by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that day. Sky News correspondent Rofida Atef told CPJ that four journalists in her crew were attacked and their camera destroyed. Mohammad Nabil, a photographer for Al-Watan newspaper, told CPJ his right leg was broken in another attack and that Al-Watan photographer, Amr Hafez Diab, was wounded in his hand. Russia Today photographer Mukhtar Ahmed said he was beaten in the head by 10 individuals with sticks. Al-Masry al-Youm journalist Mohammed Talaat told CPJ that at least five people beat him, but that he managed to escape when one attacker tried to stab him.

After photographs of the attacks emerged in the local media Saturday night, Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, released a statement that said the journalists had provoked group members and that the members were defending their property from attacks.

Early Sunday, the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate filed an official complaint with the Prosecutor General, who opened an investigation into the attacks and summoned for questioning three bodyguards of Khairat el-Shater, a senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood group, news reports said.

Protesters gathered outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters on Sunday, demonstrating against the attacks on journalists and activists the day before. Police assaulted at least six journalists covering the clashes, news reports. Al-Youm al-Saba’a journalist Mohammed Ismail told his newspaper that riot police beat and temporarily detained him. Al-Watan editor Ahmed Ghoneim accused the police of firing rubber bullets at him and beating him when he ran away. He said he injured his right foot. News accounts reported that Amr Arafa of Vito online newspaper, and Al-Youm al-Saba’a journalists Mohamed Haggag, Maher Malak, and Mahmoud Hifnawy were also attacked, but did not offer further details.

Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood, told CPJ today that the group does not use violence as a tactic, and that in this case the media had conducted a smear campaign against them. He said Muslim Brotherhood officials would be conducting an internal investigation into the accusations against its members and that the results would be announced publicly.

Local journalists protested in front of the Egyptian Parliament today against increased attacks against them by supporters of the Egyptian government, news reports said.