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Africa

Al Jazeera journalists arrested for 'harming' Egypt's security

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-20

Egyptian police have arrested Australian and Egyptian Al Jazeera journalists for broadcasting news that "harmed domestic security", the interior ministry said Monday. The Qatar-based channel says two other staff were also detained.

The National Security service raided the broadcaster's makeshift bureau at a Cairo hotel on Sunday, arresting two of the journalists and confiscating their equipment, the ministry said in a statement.

The raid came just days after Egyptian authorities listed the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohammed Morsi as a terrorist group, making membership in the Islamist movement or even possessing its literature a crime.

The journalists "broadcast live news harming domestic security", the interior ministry said, adding that they were also found in possession of Muslim Brotherhood "publications".

The ministry did not identify the journalists, saying only that one was a "Muslim Brotherhood member" and the other an Australian national.

Al Jazeera confirmed the arrests in a statement, identifying those detained as Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy and Australian reporter Peter Greste. The channel said producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzi were also arrested on Sunday.

"We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Al Jazeera English journalists working in Cairo and demand their immediate and unconditional release," the network said.

Greste, a former BBC journalist, won the prestigious Peabody award in 2011 for a documentary on Somalia. Fahmy, who formerly worked with CNN, is a well-known journalist in Cairo with no known links to the Brotherhood.

Egypt's military-installed government cracked down on Al Jazeera's affiliates following the overthrow of Morsi in July, accusing the broadcaster of pro-Brotherhood coverage.

The government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation last week after a suicide car bombing of a police headquarters killed 15 people.

Egypt blamed the attack on the Brotherhood although an al Qaeda-inspired group claimed responsibility for the bombing and the Brotherhood condemned it.

'Harassment'

Gas-rich Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, had been a strong Morsi supporter and has stood out among the Gulf nations for condemning Egypt's deadly crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrations in recent months. 

Several Al Jazeera reporters remain in detention, including Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist for the Arabic language station arrested on August 14 when police dispersed an Islamist pro-Morsi protest camp in Cairo, killing hundreds in clashes.

"Al Jazeera Media Network has been subject to harassment by Egyptian security forces which has arrested our colleagues, confiscated our equipment and raided our offices despite that we are not officially banned from working there," the channel said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Monday that six journalists were killed in Egypt in 2013, with half of those killed while reporting on the August 14 crackdown by Egyptian security forces on pro-Morsi demonstrators.

"Amid stark political polarisation and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013," the New York-based CPJ said.

Two-thirds of the journalists killed in the past year were killed in the Middle East, the group said, with Syria, Iraq and Egypt the most deadly places to work.

The CPJ has been tracking deaths among journalists in the field since 1992.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2013-12-30

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