Journalists get attacked, arrested in Egypt

Michael Calderone
Egypt media crackdown
Egypt media crackdown

Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attacked pro-democracy protesters and targeted journalists in Cairo on Wednesday. The Cutline reported yesterday on pro-Mubarak mobs going after journalists from CNN, CBS, ABC and numerous international news outlets.

The media crackdown seems to be accelerating today. So far, there have been several reports on Twitter indicating that pro-Mubarak mobs have attacked journalists and bloggers—and that some journalists have also been arrested by Mubarak's much-feared police force.

But it's not only the police arresting members of the media. The AP reports that the Egyptian military is rounding up journalists, with correspondent Hadeel Al-Shalchi tweeting that two New York Times journalists have been arrested. (A Times spokeswoman said that the two journalists were "detained by military police overnight in Cairo and are now free." )

Also, Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl wrote today that witnesses say Leila Fadel, the paper's Cairo bureau chief, and photographer Linda Davidson "were among two dozen journalists arrested this morning by the Egyptian Interior Ministry." (They were later released).

It's not clear why the army is now detaining journalists, but it might be for their own protection from the violent, pro-Mubarak mobs who are out again today.

The AP reported today that Mubarak supporters stabbed a Greek journalist with a screwdriver and punched a freelance photographer. Also, Al Jazeera reported today that two of its reporters were attacked en route to Cairo airport, along with cameraman being assaulted near Tahrir Square.

"There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting," State Dept. spokesman Philip Crowley wrote on Twitter. "We condemn such actions."

The White House has also condemned attacks against journalists. "The administration strongly condemns the violence today and strongly condemns violence against journalists in Egypt," press secretary Robert Gibbs told The Cutline Wednesday.

CNN's Anderson Cooper described "pandemonium" Wednesday as his crew was attacked. Watch the ordeal below:

ABC's Christiane Amanpour also reported that a mob kicked the doors of her crew's car and smashed a windshield. Watch as a crowd of Mubarak supporters confront Amanpour:

Reuters' Simon Hanna tweeted today that a "gang of thugs" stormed the news organization's Cairo office and being smashing windows. Also, Hanna wrote that "two army men came into the building with guns, kicked out the thugs but were shouting and swearing at us." Both Committee to Protect Journalists and ABC News each have running lists of journalists attacked: here and here.

There have been several reports over Twitter that Mubarak's police have arrested "Sandmonkey," a prominent Egyptian blogger and critic of the regime.  Just yesterday, he spoke to Pajamas Media TV about evading police officials who were apparently looking for him. (Later, Sandmonkey wrote on Twitter: I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken #jan25). 

Mubarak's authoritarian regime has long repressed the media and his police forces attacked journalists during last Friday's major demonstration. The Egyptian government also shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau Sunday, following the network's exhaustive coverage since the uprising began.

On Monday, The Cutline spoke with Amanpour, Cooper and other journalists in Egypt. At the time, they had been covering largely peaceful demonstrations staged by pro-democracy protesters. But now, with pro-Mubarak protesters on the streets, journalists aren't safe.

Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, wrote the following on Twitter today: "Journalists, now targets, disliked by mubarak supporters, forced to play cat-mouse game, broadcasting, moving, staying low profile."

Update: More attacks, including journalists from CBS, ABC, and Fox News.

(Army soldiers between pro-Mubarak and pro-democracy demonstrators near Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 3, 2011. Lefteris Pitarakis: AP)