New York, April 23, 2013–At least 13 journalists were attacked amid clashes between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition Friday in Cairo and Alexandria. Demonstrators supporting the Muslim Brotherhood were calling for reform of Egypt’s judiciary, while opposition groups were protesting the Brotherhood and the government it leads.
“While all parties in Egypt should halt the attacks on journalists covering political events, President Mohamed Morsi has a special obligation to demand that his supporters stop this behavior,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The evidence shows that most of these assaults are being committed by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have established a months-long pattern of intimidating and harassing the news media.”
In Cairo, Ibrahim al-Masry, photographer with Al-Wady newspaper, was hit with live ammunition from unidentified shooters. He is hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the neck, according to news reports. Testimony from witnesses suggested that members of the so-called black block, a youth protest group that wears black masks in demonstrations, and supporters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak were facing off with Brotherhood supporters, and the shots came from the side of the former.
In addition, a group of men assaulted prominent columnist and former editor of Al-Ahaly newspaper Nabil Zaki as he was walking to his car in downtown Cairo, according to local news reports. Khaled Al-Balshy, a board member at the Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ that the syndicate helped Zaki file an official complaint with the general prosecutor. He sustained injuries to his left eye and his lip as well as blood clots. Zaki identified his attackers as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Balshy said.
In Alexandria, at least 11 journalists and photographers were beaten or shot with rubber bullets while covering the clashes, in which supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood had a much larger turnout than the opposition, according to local news. Ahmed Tarek, reporter for the state news agency MENA, who was hit by rubber bullets and injured in his leg, told Al-Masry al-Youm that he believed the attacks on journalists by the Muslim Brothers were systematic and preplanned, as the perpetrators targeted people with cameras and shouted anti-media slogans while beating them. He added that some of his friends who are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood had warned him not to cover the protests.
Two photographers with independent dailies, Amira Mortada of Al-Shorouk and Heba Khamies of Al-Tahrir, were beaten while taking pictures of Brotherhood members dragging a man in the street. Amr Anwar, photographer with news website Vito, was also beaten, according to news reports and local journalists. Other journalists in Alexandria who were beaten, according to the same sources, include Ibraim Ramdan, photographer for Al-Badil daily newspaper; Asma Abd Allatif, a photographer for regional news website Moheet; Ahmed Abdel Fattah, reporter from the weekly Al-Sabah; Mohammed Gaber, Ahmed Maged Karmoz, and Mohammed Al Boshy, all editors at Al-Wafd pro-opposition newspaper; and Laila Khalil, photographer at Alexandria newspaper.
Friday’s violence is the latest in a series, with CPJ research showing that dozens of journalists have been attacked in Egypt in the past six weeks. At least four journalists were attacked in street protests the weekend of April 5; in March, at least two were attacked outside Media City and another 14 outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters. A group of journalists demonstrated Monday against the attacks in Alexandria, and the Journalists’ Syndicate released a statement calling on the general prosecutor to investigate.
The violence follows an escalated campaign against independent and critical media earlier this year, including legal prosecutions, physical attacks, and intimidation. On April 10, Morsi announced that he would withdraw legal complaints against journalists who “spread wrong information.”