World leaders condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt

2011-02-03 15:35

The US today condemned a “concerted campaign” of intimidation against international journalists covering the unrest in Egypt, as news media reported a string of assaults and arrests.

Other foreign leaders and rights activists also denounced the attacks and harassment. One French media executive accused Egyptian state TV of inciting “lynching”.

“There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting,” said State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley on the microblogging website Twitter.

“We condemn such actions,” he added.

Correspondents and photographers reporting on the fierce clashes that took place in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square said supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak had turned on them.

Some described being arrested by police and having their equipment confiscated or destroyed.

“Egyptian state television has referred to foreign journalists as being responsible for what is happening,” said Thierry Thuillier, head of news at France Televisions.

He said: “It’s a kind of undisguised incitement to lynching.

“They are inconvenient witnesses, we are seeing a systematic assault on foreign journalists.”

“Attacks against journalists are completely unacceptable,” read a joint statement from the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain today as the world’s media reported the attacks.

BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reported that Egyptian secret police had handcuffed, blindfolded and interrogated him for three hours before releasing him.

Al-Jazeera, which has been targeted by Egyptian authorities for its coverage of the events said that pro-Mubarak demonstrators chased away one of its correspondents calling him “a Jew” and “a dog”.

Yesterday, the Qatar-based TV network said police had detained six of its foreign journalists working for the English service, holding them for several hours and confiscating their camera.

CNN star correspondent Anderson Cooper reported how he and his camera crew were attacked by Mubarak supporters just outside Cairo’s central Tahrir Square.

He said: “It was pandemonium. There was no control. Suddenly a man would come up to you and punch you in the face.”

CNN showed footage of the assault on its crew.

Police arrested three Polish journalists covering the unrest, TVP, a Polish TV station, reported.

Two other journalists with the station were briefly detained before being released today.

Speaking live from Cairo on TVP, one of the released journalists said police had destroyed his camera and that earlier he and his colleague had been accosted by a mob in central Cairo.

Three journalists with France’s BFM TV suffered a 15-minute beating, their attackers using their fists, boots and clubs, said the channel chief Guillaume Dubois.

They were eventually rescued by a passing army convoy, he added.

The Russian foreign ministry said today that its diplomats had tracked down two correspondents for the Zvezda TV station at a military counter-espionage centre.

“They had been arrested for breaking the curfew and for having filmed public places without the necessary authorisation,” said a ministry statement.

A reporter and a photographer for the Greek daily Kathimerini were injured in yesterday’s violence, a Greek government official said today.

Egyptian soldiers took reporter Petros Papaconstantinou to hospital for treatment after he was attacked, but he had since checked himself out.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said its correspondent Ahmed Abdullah had been severely beaten by Mubarak supporters yesterday.

Belgian daily Le Soir said its correspondent Serge Dumont had described being beaten up and then arrested on yesterday.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere has called for Dumont’s “immediate release”.

From New York, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said the attacks were a deliberate policy of the Mubarak administration.

“The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation, and today a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the committee’s Middle East co-ordinator.

Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders denounced the “shocking” attacks.

“They are also designed to silence journalists and gag news media,” the group’s chief Jean-Francois Julliard said.

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