Egypt: No Country for Journalists
Journalists from around the world covering the massive anti-government protests in Egypt have been attacked and detained by security forces and organized thugs loyal to embattled dictator Hosni Mubarak. Angry mobs have assaulted news crews from CNN, al-Jazeera, Voice of America, Fox News and many other organizations in the last two days as the violence in Egypt has escalated.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his crew have been attacked twice in the last 48 hours. He described the first day’s assault to the Huffington Post: “A man jumped out of the crowd and tried to push us around. It sort of allowed other people in the crowd to focus on us. Other people came out of the crowd. Somebody punched me in the head, and from there things escalated quickly.”
Cooper and his crew tried to walk away “as calmly as possible,” but the mob gave chase. “They were following us, screaming at us, ripping at our clothes,” he said. Some in the crowd threw bottles and water at Cooper’s crew, others threw punches. Cooper says he was hit in the head at least ten times. Some onlookers tried to come to their aid, but they were vastly outnumbered by pro-Mubarak thugs. All the while, Egyptian soldiers stood idly by watching.
Cooper was attacked again today as he tried to report on the escalating violence in Cairo. He tweeted: “Situation on ground in #egypt very tense. Vehicle I was in attacked. My window smashed. All ok.”
Luis Ramirez, a Voice of America reporter, also says mobs twice tried to attack his crew in Cairo. “People who were very angry were cursing at us,” he said. “One person who was there, a bystander, said that they were, in Arabic, that they were going to kill us.”
Voice of America reports that Egyptian state television is portraying foreign journalists as “traitors” and “spies,” and that the attacks seem to be organized. Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based non-profit organization promoting press freedom worldwide, said the Mubarak regime is behind the wave of journalist beatings and detentions.
“This by no stretch of the imagination can be the act of individuals. It is well organized; it is systematic and it is persistent,” he said. “The goal is to eliminate witnesses, journalists and otherwise, but really journalists are always the primary witnesses in any situation like this. And that is why we see the government and their plain clothes thugs engaging in this reprehensible behavior.”
Abdel Dayem says the Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the detention of more than 30 reporters in Egypt.
Meanwhile, reporters fear that anti-journalist violence will only get worse as the situation deteriorates in Egypt.
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