World Agenda

Last updated: 7 february, 2011 - 15:50 GMT

Journalists under attack in Egypt

Journalists being attacked on the street in Egypt

Journalists being attacked on the street in Egypt

A number of foreign reporters covering the current political crisis in Cairo have been detained by security forces for questioning or beaten by mobs in the streets. Journalists from around the world have been telling the BBC their stories.

The attacks on foreign journalists in Egypt have drawn criticism from states including Brazil, Britain, Sweden and the United States, who say that the Egyptian government is violating its international obligations regarding freedom of the press.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says it holds President Hosni Mubarak “personally responsible” for the attacks. Between Wednesday and Thursday, 2-3 February, it reported 30 detentions, 26 assaults and eight instances of equipment having been seized.

Steel bars

BBC Arabic reporter Assad Sawey, in Cairo, said he was arrested and beaten by plain-clothed policemen.

“They took my camera away and when they arrested me, they started beating me with steel bars, the ones used here for slaughtering animals," he said.

The BBC condemned the assault, saying it was a deliberate attack by police against which the BBC would strongly protest.

‘We’ll shoot at will’

They took my camera away and when they arrested me, they started beating me with steel bars, the ones used here for slaughtering animals

BBC Arabic reporter Assad Sawey

Journalists for Russia’s television channel Zvezda (Star) were detained in Cairo, later freed and are now in Moscow. Correspondent Algirdas Mikoulskis and cameraman Arkady Nazarenko were arrested in Egypt as they were about to transmit materials they filmed in Tahrir Square.

Algirdas told BBC Russian: “We were stopped at a checkpoint, ripped of all documents, equipment, mobile phones and taken to a building. Initially, they did not threaten us in any way.

“But then they made us put our arms behind backs and tied them up with plastic bands, and blindfolded us.

“They sat us in a car and drove somewhere. Whilst in the car we were ordered to keep our heads down, between our knees, all the time.

“And we repeatedly heard the phrase, ‘We’ll shoot at will’. I don’t know how real the threat was, but the phrase was sounded repeatedly.”

"We were driven around for 40 minutes. They took us away from the car, still blindfolded, and led us to a room. Then they cleared out our pockets. A doctor came and asked if we had any problems related to health.

“Then we were asked if we were ready to go. Of course we were. They gave back all our belongings. Everything was intact, all the equipment, money, credit cards.

“Then we were blindfolded once again and taken by car somewhere in Cairo’s suburbs. And then they said, ‘Now guys you’re on your own. We cannot take you to the hotel’.”

No protection

BBCC Arabic reporter Assad Sawey was beaten by police

BBCC Arabic reporter Assad Sawey was beaten by police

BBC Brasil reports that journalists Corban Costa and Gilvan Rocha, from state broadcasters Radio Nacional and TV Brasil, were detained last Tuesday at a police station and held in a room with no windows. They spent the night without any water and were released the next morning.

Brazilian journalist Luiz Antonio de Araujo, from Zero Hora newspaper, told BBC Brasil they were attacked by about 50 people in an area where supporters of President Hosnii Mubarak were gathering.

Luiz said that, despite army presence, he received no help – he had his camera and wallet stolen.

Secret police

CBB-IBN, one of the major English-language channels in India, reports that journalist Rajesh Bhardwaj was arrested twice. The second time, he was detained for more than four hours for questioning by the Egyptian army.

He said he demanded to speak to the Indian ambassador, but this was denied. He said his tapes and identity card were burned.

BBC journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was detained while visiting a rich neighbourhood in Cairo to interview one of the President's advisers. He believes he and the crew were held by members of the secret police who handcuffed and blindfolded them for three-hours.

Al-Jazeera reported that three of its reporters who had been arrested have now been released by the Egyptian authorities.

A reporter for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television says she was attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters, who took her cameraman’s equipment and tried to beat her.

Dutch media have reported that the Embassy of Holland evacuated five Dutch journalists from a hotel in Cairo. According to the Dutch government, journalists from GPD news agency, Een Vandaag and Brandpunt TV programme were threatened in their hotel by supporters of President Mubarak.

Mob rule

Anti-Mubarak protesters read newspapers at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt

Anti-Mubarak protesters read newspapers at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt

The Swedish broadcaster SVT says one of its reporters was in hospital with stab wounds, while the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet says two of its reporters were detained by the Egyptian Army, accused of spying for the Israeli secret service.

Seven French journalists were detained for a number of hours. Three of the journalists from TF1 television were blindfolded, taken to an unknown location and questioned for 15 hours in Cairo.

The other four journalists – three from France 24 television and one from Le Figaro newspaper – spent a day in detention.

Two journalists from American Fox News Channel were reported to have been beaten by a mob near Tahrir Square on Wednesday. CNN’s Anderson Cooper says his crew was also attacked by a mob. On Thursday, two journalists from The Washington Post were also detained.

Read more, including BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner’s report click “Egypt violence exposes secret tools of state repression” and BBC News’s special report on the click Egypt unrest

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