Journalists and bloggers under siege
Media workers have come under attack from pro-Mubarak forces in Cairo. Index on Censorship’s Egypt regional editor Ashraf Khalil reports

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03 Feb 11

If Wednesday was the day that the protesters occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square were besieged by armed pro-government thugs, then Thursday was the journalists’ turn for a little terrifying mob violence.

All through the day, came steadily increasing reports of journalists — both foreigners and native Egyptians — being harassed, detained and even assaulted by pro-Mubarak crowds.

It’s 6pm Cairo time as I write this, and I’ve personally heard of at least a dozen separate incidents. The Washington Post has confirmed on its website that their Cairo Bureau Chief Leila Fadel was “among two dozen journalists arrested this morning by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. We understand that they are safe but in custody.”

At least three reporters from Al Jazeera’s English channel were apparently arrested by the Army, according to staffers there. A Greek journalist was stabbed in the leg, and Mohammed Dahshan, a reporter with the English Edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, was beaten by Mubarak supporters — apparently for the crime of carrying a laptop in his bag.

Andrew Lee Butters, a reporter working with Time Magazine was detained and roughed by civilians, who he said were taking orders from uniformed police officers on the scene. The prominent local blogger Sandmonkey was arrested while attempting to bring in medical supplies to help the wounded in Tahrir. He later tweeted

: I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apart & supplies taken

The sheer scope of the number of incidents in one day should immediately discredit any government argument that these were isolated or spontaneous events. This could only have been a coordinated campaign. And it’s a surreal irony that many of these attacks were taking place at the same time that new prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was apologising for the previous day’s violence and promising an investigation.