After deadly clashes on 2 May near the defence ministry, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria two days later to protest against the army’s hold on power.
In Cairo, demonstrators gathered, mostly in the Abbassiya district, near the defence ministry, despite warnings the day before from the army against any threat to military premises, and the deployment of large numbers of security forces.
The overall toll among the demonstrators was heavy -- two dead and more than 130 injured. Those working in the media suffered similarly.
Reporters Without Borders recorded at least 32 assaults and detentions of journalists on 4 May alone. Many cameras and mobile phones were seized, some of which have not been returned to their owners. (Read: http://almesryoon.com/permalink/6586.html)
The press freedom organization strongly condemns such brutal treatment of media workers and demands that those responsible be identified and brought to justice. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is deservedly a new entry in the list of Predators of Freedom of Information published by Reporters Without Borders on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May.
Toll of 4 May
Of at least 32 journalists targeted:
- 20 were assaulted or beaten
- 11 were injured
- 19 were arrested
- 5 were detained
- 1 was abducted
- 7 had equipment seized
Cases in detail
A five-member crew from the satellite station Misr 25, comprising reporters Ahmed Abdel Alim, Ahmed Fadl, Musa’ab Hamed and Hassan Khodary (injured that morning in the Abbassiya clashes), and photographer Ahmad Lutfi, were doing a live broadcast near the Al-Nour mosque when they were arrested, taken into the mosque and asked for identification. According to Lutfi, they were all subjected to violence and humiliation by the military police. After seizing all their equipment, troops took them to a military control unit.
Musa’ad El-Barbari, deputy director of the Misr 25 station, said the five men appeared before the public prosecutor on 5th May and faced five charges each:
- Association with a group intent on disturbing public order and preventing an institution of the state from performing its duties.
- Use of force and violence against agents of the security forces responsible for protecting state institutions.
- Blocking public and private transport, blocking streets in the area around the defence ministry.
- Illegal assembly
- Entering a prohibited military zone.
Although the station produced documents proving that it employed the five men as journalists and showing they were there purely in a professional capacity, El-Barbari said the prosecutor refused to take this into account.
The military prosecutor ordered the release of three of the crew, but extended the detentions of Alim and Fadl by two weeks. They were taken to Tora prison in the south of the capital before being released on 6 May. (Read: http://al-mashhad.com/News/%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6%D...)
Two other journalists from the same channel - Mohamed Rabie and Mohamed Amin - were detained in a separate incident nearby (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keOFdkOXOKc). They appeared before the military prosecutor and were released the next day.
Two journalists from the online newspaper El-Badil, Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abu-l-Ezz, were assaulted by thugs and handed over to the military police. They were taken to the office of the military prosecutor, who ordered their detention for two weeks and their transfer to Tora prison. However, they were released on 6 May. According to the El-Badil website, they were severely beaten by military police at the time of their arrest and in Tora prison, causing concussion.
Abdul Rahman Musharraf, a journalist with the newspaper Al-Watan, was beaten by military police officers before being arrested and taken to the military prosecutor’s headquarters together with El-Badil’s Ramadan and Abu-l-Ezz. He was also released on 6 May.
Also on 4 May, Mahmoud Motawe’, a photographer with the online newspaper Sada-el-Balad, received bullet wounds in the back from an unidentified source. He was taken to Qasr Al-‘Aini hospital where he was kept in overnight.
Abdul-Rahman Youssef, a contributor to the human rights website hoqook.com, was taking photographs of the clashes outside the defence ministry when he was violently attacked by a thug armed with a knife, who inflicted a serious wound to his ear. He was trapped in the Al-Demerdash area with demonstrators hemmed in by security forces arresting anyone trying to leave, including those who were hurt, and was only able to get out an hour after he was injured. He was then detained by military police and transferred to the prosecutor’s office, where he appeared before the military prosecutor. He was released later that day.
Two photographers with the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mohamed El-Shami and Ali El-Malki, were beaten and arrested while photographing the clashes. Both sustained injuries in the beatings. They were taken before a military prosecutor and were held in the premises of the military prosecutor’s office in eastern Cairo until finally released late the next afternoon.
Three reporters with the daily Al-Watan, Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Abdu and Ahmed Bahnasi, were taken to Demerdash Hospital after inhaling tear gas that military police used outside the defence ministry. Al-Watan photographer Mohamed Omar was treated in the same hospital, receiving three stitches to a head injury caused by a stone that was thrown at him.
All four, including Kamel, who had been attacked by demonstrators the day before, were arrested by military police and were transferred to the military prosecutor’s office in eastern Cairo, where they were taken before a military prosecutor. They were released late the next afternoon.
Rabab Fares, a reporter for the independent daily Al-Tahrir, and Ezz El-Nubin, a reporter for the independent daily Youm7, were physically attacked.
Al-Jazeera Mubasher-Misr, ONTV, El-Tahrir and CBC television crews were attacked by military police, who smashed their mobile phones.
Amer Khamis, a journalist with the online newspaper Al-Mesryoon, was physically attacked.
Aya Seyed Mahmoud Abdul-Rahim, a journalist with the online newspaper Misr El-Naharda, was physically attacked and arrested, and then taken before a military prosecutor, who ordered her held for two weeks. As she was being transferred to El-Qanater women’s prison, her release was ordered by Gen. El-Adawy, the head of the military justice system.
Sami Abdul Rahman and Islam Adel, two journalists with the online newspaper Sada-el-Balad, were arrested by military police and held in Al-Nour Mosque, near Abbasiya Square, until they were brought before a military prosecutor the next day. They were then released in the afternoon.
The camera of Sharif Salah, a photographer with the independent weekly Al-Mashhad, was confiscated by military police, who threatened to arrest him if he did not leave. He still has not recovered his camera.
Virginie Nguyen, a Belgian photographer working for Egypt Independent (the online English-language version of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm), sustained an upper jaw fracture and a split upper lip when she was hit full in the face by a stone thrown by demonstrators. She was taken to a hospital for treatment to her injuries, which included two loosened teeth.
As she was leaving the hospital, she was detained by military police, who took her from one military hospital to another and then to an army building for interrogation. She was finally released and her camera equipment was returned to her with the “troublesome” photos deleted. The entire incident lasted nearly five hours, she told Reporters Without Borders. She underwent an operation to her upper jaw the next day at the American Hospital.
Walid El-Daramalli, a reporter for the independent weekly Al-Karamah, was kidnapped by unidentified individuals while covering clashes at Abbasiya Square early on the morning of 4 May and was taken to a building near the square. He managed to phone friends, who came and released him. He sustained a leg injury. Military police arrested his assailants.
Al-Masry Al-Youm Suez bureau photographer Sayyed Shaker was taking photos of clashes between demonstrators and soldiers protecting the Suez governorate’s headquarters when two army officers asked him to surrender his camera. They slapped and kicked him when he refused, and took him before the Suez military governor, who ordered him released after all his photos had been deleted.
Al-Watan reporter Ahmed Ghoneim was accosted by military police outside the military prosecutor’s office buildings on 5 May while covering a demonstration by political activists in protest against the arrests of hundreds of civilian demonstrators. He was manhandled and arrested, and was taken before a military prosecutor.
Al-Watan photographer Mahmoud El-Debie was also detained for about two hours during the same demonstration and his camera equipment was seized. Both were released in the early evening and their camera was returned with the contents of the memory cards erased.
In a press release on 19 December 2011, Reporters Without Borders condemned the military’s “systematic use of violence against media personnel” in the course of an indiscriminate crackdown on demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the previous three days. A month before, Reporters Without Borders reported at least 44 media freedom violations in the course of clashes between soldiers and demonstrators during the week of 19-28 November.
photo: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP