by Gary Farber
Appearances matter. To control information is to control. "Don't judge a book by its cover" is a popular saying that will cause anyone who sells books or works in publishing to ROFl ("roll on the floor laughing"), because it's exactly what people do, though no one wants to admit to doing it. It's always someone else.
In Egypt, we're seeing this play out. Mubarak intensifies press attacks with assaults, detentions:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak unleashed an unprecedented and systematic attack on international media today as his supporters assaulted reporters in the streets while security forces began obstructing and detaining journalists covering the unrest that threatens to topple his government.
In the past 24 hours alone, CPJ has recorded 30 detentions, 26 assaults, and eight instances of equipment having been seized. In addition, plainclothes and uniformed agents reportedly entered at least two hotels used by international journalists to confiscate press equipment. On Wednesday, CPJ documented numerous earlier assaults, detentions, and confiscations. Mubarak forces have attacked the very breadth of global journalism: Their targets have included Egyptians and other Arab journalists, Russian and U.S. reporters, Europeans and South Americans.
Government officials, pro-government journalists, and commentators loyal to Mubarak have for the past two days been engaged in a systematic campaign to present foreigners, and particularly foreign journalists, as spies. CPJ has documented at least seven instances on state-owned television or on private stations owned by businessmen loyal to Mubarak in which individuals described elaborate foreign plots to destabilize Egypt that centered on foreign provocateurs, including journalists. In several instances, they were described as "Israeli spies." In one instance, a woman whose face was obscured "confessed" to having been trained by "Americans and Israelis." She went on to say that the alleged training took place in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.
Here is a round-up of attacks on the press:
* The Washington Post told CPJ that the paper's Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, and Linda Davidson, a photographer, were among a number of journalists detained this morning. Their unidentified driver and translator were also picked up, and the driver was beaten. Fadel and Davidson were freed late today, but the status of the driver and translator was unclear.
* Corban Costa of Brazilian Radio Nacional and cameraman Gilvan Rocha of TV Brasil were detained, blindfolded, and had their passports and equipment seized, according to Brazilian news accounts. The two were reportedly held overnight without water in a windowless room in a Cairo police station. An officer forced the reporters to sign a statement in Arabic saying they would immediately leave Egypt for Brazil, reports said. "We had to trust what he said, and sign the document, " Corban said. They said they will be sent back to Brazil on Friday.
* Polish state television TVP said that five journalists working in two crews--Krzysztof Kołosionek and Piotr Bugalski; and Michał Jankowski, Piotr Górecki, and Paweł Rolak--were detained in Cairo and that one of their cameras was smashed. Krzysztof Kołosionek and Piotr Bugalski were released, according to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
- The New York Times reported today that two of its reporters were released after they were detained overnight in Cairo.
- Mubarak supporters stormed Cairo's Hilton Hotel searching for journalists, Al-Jazeera reported today. Journalists inside the hotel posted a Tumblr entry that said: "About 20 foreign journalists are currently holed up." BBC Foreign Editor Jon Williams tweeted: "Egyptian security seize BBC equipment at Cairo Hilton in attempt to stop us broadcasting."
- Rachel Beth Anderson, a freelance videographer in Cairo, tweeted that "cameras & phones disappearing from journo hotel rooms in the Semiramis hotel! We're locked inside by staff who says its orders from outside."
- Fox News reported that correspondent Greg Palkot and producer Olaf Wiig were hospitalized after being beaten by protesters in Cairo.
- The Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported that its correspondent in Egypt, Bert Sundström, is recovering from stab wounds to the stomach in a Cairo hospital. STV said it lost touch with Sundström as he was reporting in Tahrir Square and when they finally reached him on his cell phone, a man answered and told the station that he had been "taken by the military." STV's Ingrid Thörnqvist told the online Aftonbladet: "He is seriously injured, but the condition is stable."
- The Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini said its correspondent in Cairo, Petros Papaconstantino, was "briefly hospitalized with a stab wound to the leg" after an attack by Mubarak supporters in Tahrir Square, according to The Associated Press. The reporter wrote on Kathimerini's site: "I was spotted by Mubarak supporters. They ... beat me with batons on the head and stabbed me lightly in the leg. Some soldiers intervened, but Mubarak's supporters took everything I had on me in front of the soldiers." AP also reported that an unidentified Greek newspaper photographer was punched in the face.
- The Associated Press reported that CBS reporter Mark Strassman and a camera operator were attacked while trying to photograph people throwing rocks. Strassman told AP that demonstrators punched and sprayed with Mace his camera operator, whom he did not identify. "As soon as one started, it was like blood in the water," he said.
- Dima Salem, a reporter for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, was attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters who took her cameraman's equipment and tried to beat her, the station said. Witnesses helped them escape, Al-Arabiya reported on the air.
No news organization seemed exempt from the rage, which escalated as the week wore on. Whether from Western or Arab media, television networks or wire services, newspapers or photo syndicates, journalists were chased through the streets and had their equipment stolen or smashed. Some were beaten so badly that they required hospital treatment.
ABC News reported that one of its crews was carjacked on Thursday and threatened with beheading. A Reuters journalist said a “gang of thugs” had stormed the news service’s office and started smashing windows. And four journalists from The Washington Post were detained by forces that they suspected were from the Interior Ministry. All four were released by early Friday. But two of them, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief and a photographer, had been ordered not to leave a local hotel.
“It appears that journalists are being targeted by the Egyptian authorities in a deliberate campaign of intimidation aimed at quashing honest, independent reporting of a transformational event,” said The Post’s foreign editor, Douglas Jehl.
If the aim was to suppress coverage, the actions were somewhat effective. Major television networks from around the world were largely unable to broadcast from Tahrir Square, the center of antigovernment protests, on Thursday. The Egyptian state news agency had earlier asked foreign reporters and crews to move out of the hotels near the square.
Live television images were so difficult to transmit that by the afternoon, the Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith was showing viewers exactly what his control room in New York was seeing — blank screens from The Associated Press and Reuters television feeds.
Jon Williams of the BBC said via Twitter that Egyptian security forces had seized the news agency’s equipment at the Cairo Hilton “in an attempt to stop us broadcasting.” Both CNN and the BBC relied on taped footage of the square.
Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which have provided some of the most extensive network coverage of the revolt, said their journalists had been hounded from the street and from vantage points above the square where their cameras had been placed. In the absence of live pictures, the networks relied on grainy amateur video taken on the streets.
Another Arab network, Al Hurra, had what it described as one of the only live feeds from the square.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it had received nearly 100 reports of damage to news organization property or of individuals being detained or attacked.
The intimidation tactics were condemned at the highest levels of the United States government. The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, rebuked the Mubarak government and its supporters, calling the harassment “completely and totally unacceptable.” Speaking to reporters traveling with President Obama, he said that “any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the attacks on journalists were an affront to the most basic principles of international law. “It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values,” she said.
Horrifying. The White House and SecState Clinton report:
20 Deadliest Countries 1992-2011
8. India: 27
9. Mexico: 24
10. Afghanistan: 22
11. Turkey: 20
12. Bosnia: 19
13. Sri Lanka: 18
14. Brazil: 17
Deadliest Countries in 2010
8. Nigeria: 2
9. Angola: 2
10. Afghanistan: 2
11. Philippines: 2
12. Cameroon: 1
13. Belarus: 1
14. India: 1
Meanwhile Egypt rejoins the Net.
Internet connectivity has been restored to Egypt, though it's hard to tell from the outside just how reliable that connection is. Monitoring organizations Renesys and BGPMon provide technical details on their blogs. For a more dynamic display, RIPE, the community which helps co-ordinate the European Internet, has a live graph of the numbers of Internet routes to Egypt which currently shows the country's return.
Arbor Network's Craig Labovitz posted the image above, showing that levels of traffic are returning to previous levels.
With signs of fracturing within Egypt’s ruling elite, hundreds of thousands of people packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving Egyptian flags to press a largely peaceful campaign for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.
As the uprising entered its 11th day, there were few signs of the violent Mubarak supporters who the protesters said were organized and dispatched by the Mubarak government over the last two days in an effort to capture the initiative. Lurking fears among the opposition that their movement may have lost momentum were banished by the sheer numbers of the protesters and the level of their passion.
Some carried baskets of bread, food and water for those who camped out in the central square overnight after days of running battles, urging the president to depart at one of the most decisive moments in Egypt since the 1952 revolution against the monarchy. “Leave, leave, leave,” protesters chanted.
Tens of thousands of jubilant protesters turned out in the port city of Alexandria, the site of bitter and deadly clashes in the last week.
Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister serving Mr. Mubarak, appeared among the crowds in Tahrir Square, seeming to align himself with the protest. Twice he sought to address the crowd, but both times he was drowned out by roars of approval at what seemed a tacit endorsement of their cause.
Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister and deputy prime minister, appeared in the square — the first member of the ruling government elite to do so — but he seemed to be concerned mostly with reviewing the troops and did not seek to speak to the crowd, though he did chat with some protesters.
And Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the public spokesman for Al Azhar — the center of Sunni Muslim learning and Egypt’s highest, state-run religious authority — told reporters that he was resigning because “I am participating in the protests and I have issued statements that support the revolutionists as far as they go.”
- The Lord, by Moses, to Pharaoh said: Oh! let my people go.
- If not, I'll smite your first-born dead—Oh! let my people go.
- Oh! go down, Moses,
- Away down to Egypt's land,
- And tell King Pharaoh
- To let my people go.
The International Federation of Journalists is the world's largest organisation of journalists. [...] Today the Federation represents around 600.000 members in more than 100 countries.
Follow the latest developments in Egypt with Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous reporting live from Cairo.
- Live From Egypt: The True Face of the Mubarak Regime by Sharif Abdel Kouddous
- Live From Egypt: The Rebellion Grows Stronger by Sharif Abdel Kouddous
- Live From the Egyptian Revolution by Sharif Abdel Kouddous
- Sharif’s latest updates on Twitter
- Democracy Now!’s coverage of the demonstrations in Egypt