Pro-Mubarak supporters attack journalists in Egypt

Michael Calderone
Pro-Mubarak protesters attack journalists
Pro-Mubarak protesters attack journalists

President Hosni Mubarak has censored Egypt's media for decades and has tried silencing opposition voices during Egypt's uprising. His authoritarian government shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau, attacked independent news outlets and disrupted social media sites.

Now Mubarak's supporters are also trying to stop the press. On Wednesday, pro-Mubarak mobs -- which are believed to include plainclothes police -- attacked anti-government protesters and several journalists.

Anderson Cooper and his CNN crew were roughed up by pro-Mubarak protesters earlier today. Cooper, appearing on CNN's "American Morning" described the moment as "pandemonium." CNN's cameras caught the attack:

Fox Business Network correspondent Ashley Webster tweeted earlier that it has been "very tense, very unnerving for western journalists right now" and said that he's "trying to lay low." Webster also tweeted that his hotel is concerned, about having journalist staying there, telling him that "pro-regime crowd [is] angry at cameras and journalists from the West." How angry? "Security burst into our hotel room and forced our camera off the balcony shouting "they're going to kill us!!" Webster tweeted. He described the incident on Fox Business:

ABC's Christiane Amanpour wrote Wednesday that a "mob surrounded us and chased us into the car shouting that they hate America." They also "kicked in the car doors and broke our windshield as we drove away." (The Cutline spoke with Webster, Cooper and Amanpour on Monday from Cairo).

Amanpour is shown in a video being confronted by angry protesters. ABC News confirmed they were pro-Mubarak; indeed, one man can be heard voicing his support for the president.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement to The Cutline that "the Administration strongly condemns the violence today and strongly condemns violence against journalists in Egypt."

A CBS crew was also attacked by a pro-Mubarak mob, and the Committee to Protect Journalists has been keeping track of violence against journalists from around the world, listing incidents involving reporters and photographers from Israel, Belgium, Denmark, and the U.K.

The pro-Mubarak mobs have gone after journalists from independent Egyptian papers, too. CPJ noted that men described as "plainclothes police" attacked and injured a reporter and photographer from Egypt's Al-Shorouk. Journalists at independent newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm evacuated their office for fear of Mubarak supporters targeting them next.

"The Egyptian government is employing a strategy of eliminating witnesses to their actions," CPJ's Mohamed Abdel Dayem said in a statement."The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation, and today a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs. The situation is frightening not only because our colleagues are suffering abuse but because when the press is kept from reporting, we lose an independent source of crucial information."

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the attacks on journalists. "The use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking," said Secretary-general Jean-François Julliard in a statement. ""Several were directly targeted by the president's supporters and infiltrated policemen. Several were beaten and their equipment was stolen."

"We remind all parties that journalists are external observers who under no circumstances should be identified with one side or the other," Julliard continued. "These attacks seem to have been acts of revenge against the international media for relaying the protests calling for President Mubarak's resigning. They are also designed to silence journalists and gag news media.

(Photo of pro-government demonstrators throwing rocks down at pro-democracy protesters below in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypy on Feb. 2, 2011: AP /Ben Curtis)