Egypt arrests Al-Jazeera journalists, seizes equipment

New York, December 30, 2013–Egyptian authorities arrested four journalists affiliated with Al-Jazeera English on Saturday, accusing them of broadcasting without permission, according to Al-Jazeera and news reports.

The journalists–Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy; former BBC correspondent Peter Greste; producer Baher Mohamed; and Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Fawzy–were arrested as part of the Interior Ministry’s campaign to apprehend members of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to an official statement issued on Sunday. The ministry said the Al-Jazeera journalists were using two hotel rooms to conduct “illegal meetings” with the Muslim Brotherhood and to illegally broadcast news that harmed “domestic security,” according to reports. The statement said that cameras and other broadcasting equipment were also seized.

The journalists were working from a room at the Marriott hotel in Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo at the time of their arrest, according to Al-Jazeera.

The Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization last week, under Article 86 of the Egyptian Penal Code. The decision stated that membership in the party or even the possession of its materials and publications was a crime.

Al-Jazeera described the arrest as an “act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists.” The network, which is based in Qatar and funded by the Qatari government, and its affiliates have been consistently harassed by the Egyptian authorities through a series of detentions, raids, and acts of censorship. The crackdown on Al-Jazeera has been supported by many Egyptians, who accused the station of bias, an allegation Al-Jazeera denies.

“The Egyptian government is equating legitimate journalistic work with acts of terrorism in its efforts to censor critical news coverage,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator. “We condemn these arrests and call upon Egyptian authorities to release the journalists immediately.”

Egypt was among the top 10 jailers of journalists when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1. At least five other journalists were behind bars, two of whom were affiliated with Al-Jazeera: Al-Jazeera Mubashir cameraman Mohamed Bader and Al-Jazeera Egypt correspondent Abdullah al-Shami.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Egypt page here.