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Egyptian police attack reporters covering election
Egyptian police attack reporters covering election  Egyptian security forces attacked a number of local and foreign journalists covering an increasingly troubled parliamentary election on Saturday and confiscated or damaged their equipment. Thousands of riot police sealed off polling stations to anti-government voters in many areas. They also arrested over 800 supporters o
Thursday, December 1,2005 00:00
by (Reuters)

Egyptian police attack reporters covering election

 Egyptian security forces attacked a number of local and foreign journalists covering an increasingly troubled parliamentary election on Saturday and confiscated or damaged their equipment.

Thousands of riot police sealed off polling stations to anti-government voters in many areas. They also arrested over 800 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but usually tolerated Islamist group that has made gains in the early stages of the election.

Security forces have harassed journalists in the past, but physical attacks on reporters have been rare, especially on non-Egyptians or those working for foreign media organisations.

Mohammad Taha, an Egyptian working for the British Broadcasting Corporation, said a police officer had hit him while he was on the phone reporting election violence in the Nile Delta.

"I was telling London that troops were threatening voters, beating them with sticks and using teargas. Then one of the officers heard me ... and put his hands round my neck," he said.

"He tried to put me on the ground. But I struggled. I was on air at the time ... He told me to shut up and used a stick to hit me in the stomach. Then he asked one of the officers to take me away," he added.

Police later confiscated parts of Taha’s mobile phone and broke his earpiece. Reuters journalist Tom Perry was taken into police custody after attempting to take a photo.

Both journalists had official press accreditation from the government. In theory there are few formal restrictions on reporting, provided reporters can show the card.

"ELECTION TRANSPARENCY"

The Egyptian government has made much of election transparency, and what it said were newly granted rights for election monitors and journalists to enter polling stations.

"I got my camera out to take a photo of a queue of voters waiting -- blocked from going into a polling station by riot police -- and I hadn’t even focused when a guy in civilian clothes grabbed me and my camera and started shoving," Perry said.

"He pulled me through the riot police line and took me to a police station and took my camera ... I got my camera back but they took the memory card. The pushing and shoving was nasty. They wouldn’t give their names or a reason."

Journalists agreed that the level of intimidation and violence against the press had risen as the election has progressed. Saturday’s voting was the second stage of the second round. One more stage, consisting of two rounds, remains.

Cris Bouroncle, a photographer for the French agency AFP, was harassed in the same region, and the U.S.-based Associated Press said security forces had confiscated one of their reporters’ identity papers.

In one of the more serious incidents during the previous round of voting, police detained a photographer from Egypt’s Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, one of two independent dailies launched in the last two years. The episode led to a front-page story.

"An officer instructed his men to grab him ... They roughed him up and they seized the camera, cell phone, everything he had on him, including his wallet," said Hisham Kassem, the newspaper’s chief executive.

The photographer was detained for seven hours and was kept waiting for his camera for three days.

"This is very common," Kassem said. "Now everybody is being assaulted, including judges, reporters and others ... I don’t understand what’s happening. Are things really getting out of hand? This is an indicator."

 


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