Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the arrests of four French journalists as they were preparing to cover protests in Cairo today. The various methods being used by the Egyptian authorities to obstruct the right to impart news and information are completely unacceptable, the press freedom organization said.
The four journalists – Karen Lagon of Le Journal du Dimanche, Adrien Jaulmes of Le Figaro, Sipa agency photographer Albert Facelly (who is working for Le Journal du Dimanche) and a Paris-Match reporter – were arrested early this morning as they were about to cover the demonstrations after Friday prayers in the centre of Cairo and were freed one hour later, Le Figaro editor Philippe Gelie said.
Many Egyptian journalists have been physically attacked and arrested since the protests began in Egypt on 25 January (http://en.rsf.org/egypt-journalists-targeted-by-police-27-01-2011,39411.html).
Crews working for CNN, the BBC (http://plixi.com/p/73025724) and Al Jazeera have also been attacked by plain-clothes police, who smashed their equipment.
Yesterday evening, the Egyptian government disconnected the Internet and the mobile phone network in the country’s biggest cities. Mobile phones and the Internet, especially the social networks Facebook and Twitter, had been playing a key role since 25 January in getting Egyptians to take to the streets for Tunisian-style demonstrations to demand President Hosni Mubarak’s departure.
“By blocking the Internet and by attacking and arresting Egyptian and foreign journalists, the Egyptian government is trying both to prevent the protests from being organized and to prevent them from being covered internationally,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.
“As a result, it is currently impossible to know what exactly is happening in Egypt. The authorities are engineering an almost complete news blackout about the crackdown on the street protests that is now taking place.”