Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the growing hostility towards journalists in Egypt, especially after a statement by the State Information Service (SIS) on 17August inveighing against the foreign media’s coverage of the recent turmoil.
RWB condemns the many arrests of journalists during this past week and reminds the authorities that they have a duty to allow reporters to work in the best possible manner.
In particular, Reporters Without Borders urges them to release Metin Turan, a reporter with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), who has been held since 16 August, and Al-Jazeera reporter Abdallah Shami, held since 14 August. No formal charges have been brought against either of them.
Turan was arrested by police at the same time as Hibe Zekeriya of the Anadolu news agency while covering a raid by the security forces on Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo’s Ramses Square on 16 August.
Zekeriya subsequently managed to tell his agency by phone that they had been taken to Tora prison. She was finally released eight hours later, on 17 August, but Turan is still being held. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said negotiations are under way to obtain his release.
According to the Al-Jazeera website, Shami was transferred to Abu Zaabal prison yesterday, following his arrest on 14 August, and his detention was extended for 15 days, although he has not been charged.
A France 2 crew consisting of reporter Dorothée Olliéric, cameraman Stéphane Guillemot, editor Arnaud Gidon and fixer Rime El-Fawal were arrested outside Al-Fath Mosque on 17 August and were held for 10 hours at an “intelligence” centre before being released.
German freelance journalist Sebastian Backhaus was finally released on 16 August, 48 hours after being arrested in Cairo and held in a police station.
Violence and intimidation
Reporters Without Borders also condemns the violence and intimidation to which Jared Malsin, who strings for Time Magazine and other media, and freelance photographer Cliff Cheney were subjected near Ramses Square on 16 August.
In a report on the Time website , Malsin said he and Cheney were stopped by men armed with sticks, who took their cameras and slapped Malsin. Shortly thereafter, they recovered some of their equipment but another group then stopped them and took them to a garage, which they not allowed to leave for two hours because of the “security situation.”
On 17 August, the interior ministry banned these self-proclaimed “popular committees,” which have been protecting their neighbourhoods from the Muslim Brotherhood by arming themselves, setting up roadblocks and controlling all those who want to pass.
In an interview for France 2 on 18 August, Olliéric linked the intimidation and humiliation to which she and her crew were subjected to the growing resentment that Egyptians are displaying toward the international media.
Most Egyptians “do not understand and cannot bear the international community’s criticism” of Gen. Al-Sissi’s strong action,” she said. By attacking the media, the Egyptians were sending a message, she added, they were saying: “Let us combat terrorism in our own way, and you just stay out of it.”
The climate for journalists became even tenser on 17 August when the State Information Service issued a statement to the foreign media condemning their coverage of recent events.
Ignoring the fact that three journalists have been killed many others have been attacked or arrested, the English-language statement said: “Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores shedding light on violent and terror acts that are perpetrated by this group in the form of intimidation operations and terrorizing citizens.”
When a journalist asked the interim president’s political adviser, Mostafa Hegazy, about the growing hostility towards the foreign media at a press conference later the same day, Hegazy responded by reiterating the government’s condemnation of the foreign media’s perceived bias.
At the end of the news conference, journalists were given a press pack entitled “Egypt Fighting Terrorism 14th-16th August” containing photos and comments about the violence by deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters.