Amnesty International has condemned the Egyptian government’s continuing crackdown on freedom of expression after six Al Jazeera journalists were briefly detained by the military and their Cairo bureau was shut down by the authorities, disrupting its reporting of mass nationwide demonstrations.Jazeera English said that six journalists were detained at an army checkpoint outside Cairo’s Hilton hotel on Monday. They were held only briefly but their cameras and other equipment was confiscated.
Yesterday, the Cairo bureau of the Al Jazeera network was officially shut down by order of Egypt’s Information Ministry, the network said.
“This government action against Al Jazeera is just its latest attempt to close down reporting of the protests on the streets and the free flow of information,’ said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
‘The authorities are clearly trying to intimidate the media and to prevent the truth coming out about abuses by its security forces, as they struggle to maintain their grip on power in the face of unprecedented protests and demands for fundamental change.’
Local and international journalists were assaulted, arrested and their equipment confiscated by security forces throughout recent mass protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption.
“Journalists must be free to do their jobs, and internet services must be restored” said Malcolm Smart.
“The government must not be allowed to put the whole country under an information blackout, and that message needs to be sent to them very clearly by their friends and allies abroad.’
In separate incidents, Amnesty International researchers also reported that security forces were confiscating video cameras from people on Cairo’s streets today.
Most of the country’s internet services have been suspended since last Friday.
‘Mobile phones and social networking sites have been a big factor in helping bring people on to the streets and to organize protests, with people using their phone cameras to expose the reality of police torture and violence. That is why the Egyptian authorities are so keen to target them’ said Malcolm Smart.
‘They want to stop the truth emerging. They must not be allowed to succeed.’