MALTESE JOURNALISTS CALL ON EGYPT TO LET MEDIA ‘OPERATE FREELY’

Press Release 04/2011
Date: 30 January 2011


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 600,000 journalists across 125 countries, has accused security forces in Egypt of “indiscriminate violence” against local and foreign journalists operating in the Arab country.

The IFJ has lamented that “scores of journalists were forcibly detained and beaten” while reporting recent protests in the capital, Cairo, calling for political change in the country.

At least ten Egyptian journalists had been detained during a protest held outside the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate (EJS) office in Cairo and foreign reporters had been arrested and beaten while covering the protests.

“Journalists, the world over, are appalled by the thuggery of Egypt’s state security officers and riot police, beating and arresting protesters as well as journalists and photographers in Cairo,” IFJ President Jim Boumelha insisted.

“We hold the government primarily responsible for directing the police charge and call on them to order an immediate halt to these attacks,” he added.

The Guardian’s reporter in Cairo, Jack Shenker, was attacked by plain cloth officers while covering the protest in downtown Cairo who bundled him in a van with many other protesters.

He managed to provide a live account of officers’ brutality against all detainees who managed to escape after overpowering the van’s guard outside Cairo, according to the Guardian’s website.

Other foreign reporters were also targeted, including Associated Press TV News cameraman Haridi Hussein Haridi and his assistant Haitham Badry who were arrested but have now been released.

The Valletta-based Institute of Maltese Journalists’ (IGM), the sole IFJ affiliate in Malta, has associated itself with the IFJ statement on the operating situation for local and foreign media in Egypt.

Just this morning, the Egyptian Goverment has withdrawn the operating licencefor pan-Arabic satellite news channel Al Jazeera’s bureau in the country after providing extensive coverage of the protests from multiple postions, both in Cairo itself as well as in Alexandria and Suez.

“This is a seriuos deteroiration in the situation of media operating in the country, and has come after on Friday, the Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat had pulled the plug on Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera Mubasher from the platform, which broadcasts via satellite across Egypt, after covering the Eyptian uprising”, the IGM council has lamented.

“It seems like the Egyptian Goverment does not want any independent witnesses any brutalities that the Eyptian authorities might commit against civilians in the coming future, and wants only to portray to the world only the sanitised version of Egyptian state-run television station,” it has insisted.

According to the EJS, the journalists who had been arrested on Wednesday had been released along with around 200 students after they insisted on the release of all detained protesters, especially university students who were due to sit their exams on Thursday.

The EJS had explained how journalists had been demonstrating outside their offices when the security forces forcibly intervened to break up the protest and made several arrests among journalists and other protesters.

The journalists who had been detained included Karem Mahmmoud, former head of press freedom committee of the EJS and Abd Al-Qudus, both of whom had been badly beaten by police.

The IFJ has defended the journalists’ rights “to express their views in a peaceful way and warns that the authorities’ violent response is likely to escalate the protests and endanger the safety of media.

“Journalists have a job to do and they have the right to be able to report safely on these demonstrations without being punched, kicked or arrested,” Boumelha added. “The Egyptian government must be responsible for their safety.

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