Reporters Without Borders today accused the Egyptian authorities of waging a campaign of harassment against the press throughout the month-long staggered legislative elections, in which more than 50 journalists were prevented from covering the polling and most of these were also subjected to violence by police, officials or members of the public.
“It is utterly unacceptable that so many journalists and media technicians were harassed, intimidated or beaten just because they were doing their work by shooting footage or taking photos exposing polling irregularities,” the press freedom organisation said.
“By forbidding many TV crews to film polling stations, the Egyptian authorities deliberately prevented them from fulfilling their duty to report the news,” Reporters Without Borders added. “We consider this behaviour to be intolerable and we call for the punishment of those responsible for the violence.”
The third and final phase of the elections, on 7 December, were particularly violent. More than 15 journalists were prevented from working. Journalists working for the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera and the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm were the most affected.
Reporter Leena El-Ghadban, who was covering the elections for Al Jazeera, and her crew consisting of cameraman Mohamed Ezz, soundman Mohamed Galal and driver Medhat Sayed Abdou, were prevented by state security agents from filming inside a polling station in Bandar-Domyat (191 km north of Cairo).
The same thing happened to another Al-Jazeera reporter, Mohamed Yousef, in Al-A'arish, northeast of the capital. A third Al-Jazeera crew was harassed in El Sharqiya province (83 km east of Cairo). The crew, consisting of reporter Sameer Omar, cameraman Yasser Sulaiman and Sulaiman's assistant, Ahmed Shaqi, had to flee under threat of having nitric acid thrown at them.
Al-Masry Al-Youm photographer Mohamed Ma'arouf was detained by the police in Domyat province for three hours. One of his colleagues, Mohamed El-Sa'eed, suffered tear gas inhalation and was held for two hours in a government building in Balteem (200 km north of Cairo).
Another photographer, Hossam Fadl, narrowly escaped being tear gassed in El-Mansoura, near to the capital. When he returned to his car, be found all of his tyres had been let down. Fellow photographer Ahmed El-Masry was meanwhile attacked and beaten by members of the El-Mansoura municipal council.
In the province of El-Sharqiya, photographer Ahmed Shaker was doused with petrol by individuals who then threatened to set him on fire if he did not leave immediately. Four Al-Masry Al-Youm employees - reporters Abdel-A'al Tala'at and Gamal Osman, photographer Abdel-Fattah Abbas and their driver - were badly beaten by villagers in Shatoura (490 km south of the capital) when they were mistaken for plain-clothes intelligence agents.
Finally, Amre Nabil, a photographer working for the Associated Press news agency, had to be hospitalised after being hit by a stone in the eye as he was covering the election in the province of El-Sharqiya.