Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak unleashed their fury on the media Wednesday, beating and threatening journalists who were covering fierce battles between pro- and anti-government crowds in central Cairo.
Meanwhile, a young Israeli engineer named Tomer Golan by Channel 1 on Wednesday night was detained in Suez. It was not clear why he was arrested, and the television station said an investigation was under way.
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Four Israeli journalists arrested Wednesday morning in Cairo were released a few hours later following Foreign Ministry intervention.
The four – three members of a Channel 2 team and a journalist for an Israeli-Arab web site – were among a number of reporters from around the world arrested or attacked by mobs in the Egyptian capital’s Tahrir Square.
Two Swedish reporters were held for hours on Wednesday by Egyptian soldiers accusing them of being Mossad spies, the reporters’ employer, the daily newspaper Aftonbladet, reported.
The soldiers reportedly attacked the reporters, spitting in their faces and threatening to kill them.
In addition, CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were roughed up by mobs favoring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as were Washington Post reporters.
Cooper was reportedly punched in the head 10 times.
A journalist for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television reportedly suffered a concussion.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists accused the Egyptian government of orchestrating attacks on reporters in an attempt to deprive the world of independent information about the unrest. The government denied it.
The Egyptian government has used “blanket censorship, intimidation, and today a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“We strongly condemn these attacks and urge all parties to refrain from violence against journalists, local or foreign, who are simply trying to cover these demonstrations and clashes for the benefit of the public,” Anthony Mills, press freedom manager for Vienna-based International Press Institute, a media watchdog, said in a statement.
“We are particularly concerned at suggestions that the attacks may have been linked to the security services,” he said.
Government spokesman Magdy Rady said the assertion of state involvement in street clashes and attacks on reporters was a “fiction,” and that the government welcomed objective coverage.
“It would help our purpose to have it as transparent as possible. We need your help,” Rady told The Associated Press. However, he said some media were not impartial and were “taking sides against Egypt.”
The US State Department condemned actions against journalists in Egypt on Wednesday.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted: “We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press.”
On Sunday, Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of Al-Jazeera’s offices in the country. A statement by Al-Jazeera called Egypt’s decision an act “designed to stifle and repress” open reporting.
On Monday, six Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested, but were released later that day.
Israeli diplomatic officials said that journalists covering the situation in Cairo needed a special journalist visa, and that if they were working there on a regular tourist visa they were liable to be arrested.