Many of us around the world have been monitoring the developments in Egypt closely and in particular, how journalists and pro-democracy protesters are being treated.
I am very sorry to report that I’ve just learned that two of my colleagues at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were detained in Cairo today.
According to RFE/RL’s post to their English language website:
”Robert Tait and Abdelilah Nuaimi — both U.K. citizens — had just flown into the Egyptian capital to report on the ongoing political unrest.
RFE/RL made contact briefly around 1 p.m. local time with Tait, who said he had to cut the call short because he and Nuaimi were being detained.
A local RFE/RL correspondent in Cairo spoke around the same time to Nuaimi, who told him they were being held in what he believed to be a police station in the city’s Al-Azhar area.
‘We call on the Egyptian authorities to release our correspondents and their equipment immediately,’ said RFE/RL News Director Jay Tolson.”
Many reporters covering the developments in Cairo have been mobbed, beaten and detained by supporters and agents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They have had their information and equipment confiscated. Pro-Mubarak security forces have removed all cameras from the square and have raided newsrooms. The government has used censorship, intimidation and attacks against protesters and journalists.
Media feeds of the events in Egypt have served as the world’s witness to the escalating violence against peaceful protesters as internet service suffered a week-long black out and mobile phone use is blocked on Tahrir Square.
Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee To Protect Journalists drew a parallel between what is happening in Egypt today to Tiananmen Square: ”What is frightening about the massive crackdown in Egypt today is that sweeping efforts to suppress the media often lay the groundwork for most brutal kinds of repression, from the Tiananmen Square massacre to the 2009 post-election crackdown in Iran. As brutal as the violence has been in Egypt over the last several days, there is also no question that the presence of the international media has acted as something of a restraint. In other words, things could get worse.”
CPJ has compiled this run-down of attacks against the press.
Voice of America reported that mobs were trying to attack their team on the ground there. VOA’s Luis Ramirez’ life was threatened: ”People who were very angry were waving their fists at us and were cursing us. One person who was there, a bystander, said that they were, in Arabic, that they were going to kill us,” he said.
Yesterday, while hosting the Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic (a guy who surely knows a thing or two about civil unrest) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks: ”We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on reporters covering the ongoing situation in Egypt. This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and is unacceptable under any circumstances. We also condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners, and diplomats. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press are pillars of an open and inclusive society. It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values. There is a clear responsibility by the Egyptian Government, including the army, to protect those threatened and to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks. The Egyptian Government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world.”
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today to demand Mubarak’s immediate resignation. As Cairo’s nighttime curfew has just gone into effect, VOA is reporting that the crowd remains on the square.
It’s no surprise that the Chinese government is blocking internet coverage related to the protests in Egypt. The only news about the events is from the Chinese state-run media which is not reporting on the protests themselves but on the safe removal of Chinese citizens from Egypt and the unrest that they says has happened as a result of the protests. Quite a different angle, indeed.
From inside China, if you type the word “Egypt” into the country’s most popular search engines, you will get an error message. You will also get an error message if you type in ”Tiananmen Square”.