Conditions deteriorate for Egypt’s journalists

Aaron T. Rose
4 Min Read
A supporter of the Egyptian government flashes the sign for victory during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood supporters (background) in Cairo on January 25, 2014. Deadly clashes erupted in Egypt Saturday as rival demonstrations were held on the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, underscoring the country's violent polarisation three years after the Arab Spring.  (AFP PHOTO/AHMED TARANH)
A supporter of the Egyptian government flashes the sign for victory during clashes  in Cairo on January 25, 2014.

A series of attacks, arrests, and assaults targeting journalists have highlighted the hostile conditions for journalists working in Egypt from both the authorities and from a public increasingly distrustful of the media.

Two journalists and a driver working for German public television station ARD were injured by a mob in Cairo on Friday afternoon while covering the aftermath of the bomb blast that tore the façade off the Cairo Security Directorate in Downtown.

The trio — which included a cameraman and a producer — was assaulted by a crowd who accused them of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.  They were beaten by the mob and attacked with razor blades and clubs, but were rescued when a plainclothes police officer fired his gun in the air.

“The atmosphere was very heated, and hostility was directed against anyone who did not come from the neighbourhood,” wrote cameraman Martin Krüger on the ARD website.  “After about 50 metres, we were stopped by a dozen local residents.  Someone, not an official, asked us what media we are with, and if we had permission to shoot.”

“We were accused of being ‘traitors, supporters of terrorism.’”

On Saturday journalists covering the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution faced hostility in the streets.

The head of the Press Syndicate confirmed on social media that at least five photojournalists were arrested, and two more were in the hospital with injuries.  Those arrested include Colombian photojournalist Felipe Camacho, who was taken to the Dokki police station in Giza.

Freelance journalist Nadine Marroushi and Basil El-Dabh, who writes for this newspaper, were assaulted after a crowd outside Tahrir Square became aggressive and accused them of working for Qatari network Al Jazeera. Police intervened and evacuated Marroushi and El-Dabh to a nearby apartment building. Neither sustained injuries.

Daily News Egypt journalist Fady Ashraf was hit with birdshot in the shoulder and leg by Central Security Forces while covering clashes near Talaat Harb Square in Downtown, Cairo.  Ashraf did not sustain any permanent injuries.

A third journalist from the Daily News Egypt, AbdelHalim AbdAllah, was briefly detained outside Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque in Old Cairo when police officers mistook him for a Students Against the Coup protester.  He was searched and held by police until his press credentials were confirmed.

An American citizen working as an independent translator was arrested in Cairo on Wednesday and is being detained in an unknown location, indicative of the further crackdown against voices of dissent.

Jeremy Hodge, a 26 year-old Los Angeles native was taken from his home in Dokki by State Security forces late Wednesday night along with his roommate Hossam Al-Meneai, a 36 year-old  filmmaker from Sinai.

According to a press release published by English-language news site Egypt Independent, the pair was initially taken to the Dokki police station, but their whereabouts since then are unknown.

The latest arrests follow the high-profile arrests of three Al Jazeera English journalists last month.

AJE Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy were arrested on 29 December 2013 and have remained in detention since.

According to press freedoms watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists, 45 journalists have been assaulted and more than 44 journalists have been detained since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.

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Aaron T. Rose is an American journalist in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_T_Rose