Al-Jazeera says Egypt offices torched amid unrest

Top UN human rights official complains that media covering pro-democracy protests being arrested "in blatant attempt to stifle news."

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 4, 2011 18:40
2 minute read.
Al-Jazeera says Egypt offices torched amid unrest

al jazeera quits ramallah 248.88 ap. (photo credit: AP)

PARIS — Al-Jazeera's offices in Cairo were stormed and torched and its Website hacked Friday, says the Pan-Arab broadcaster, while the top UN human rights official complained that media covering Egyptian pro-democracy protests are being arrested "in a blatant attempt to stifle news."

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera — widely watched in the Middle East — portrayed the attack on its office as an attempt by Egypt's regime or its supporters to hinder its coverage of the uprising in Egypt. Al-Jazeera said the office was burned along with the equipment inside it.

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Many correspondents covering the bloody street fights in Egypt have suffered violent attacks: a Swedish journalist is recovering from being stabbed in the back, and Czech public television is withdrawing its TV crew from Egypt because of what it called "unprecedented" attacks on reporters.

"We've never seen anything like this. Not a single media outlet in Egypt today has escaped the violence," said Jean-Francois Juillard, the head of Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. "It's totally impossible to work as a journalist in Egypt today."

Al-Jazeera also said a banner advertisement on its Arabic-language site was taken down for more than two hours early Friday and replaced with a slogan reading "Together for the collapse of Egypt," which linked to a page criticizing the network.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt

"Our website has been under relentless attack since the onset of the uprisings in Egypt," a statement from Al-Jazeera said. "While the deliberate attacks this morning were an attempt to discredit us, we will continue our impartial and comprehensive coverage of these unprecedented events."

Last week, Egyptian authorities closed Al-Jazeera's Cairo office, revoked the credentials of Al-Jazeera reporters and detained several of them for various periods.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media watchdog, said Thursday that it had recorded 24 detentions of journalists, 21 assaults and five cases in which equipment was taken away over a 24-hour period. Among those detained have been correspondents for The New York Times and Washington Post.

In Geneva, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called the detentions of journalists "clearly a blatant attempt to stifle news."

She said "one of the prime drivers of this chaos seems to have been the actions of Egypt's security and intelligence services" and called for an end to violence and an investigation into whether it was planned.


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