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Egyptian journalists speak out against Brotherhood 'violence'

Dozens of journalists staged a protest, saying they were assaulted by Brotherhood members at the group's headquarters on Saturday

Ayat Al Tawy, Sunday 17 Mar 2013
Egyptian journalists speak out against Brotherhood
Journalists protest before Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo on Sunday, March 17. (Photo: Ekram Ibrahim)
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On Sunday, Egyptian journalists held protests condemning attacks on journalists outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters the previous day.

Dozens of journalists, backed by the newly-elected head of the Journalists Syndicate, Diaa Rashwan, converged at the syndicate building in downtown Cairo on Sunday afternoon.

"Indications suggest that the Brotherhood considers free press an enemy and is deliberately targeting the opposition," Rashwan told Ahram Online.

"No one could weaken the power of the press, even through the constitution. No assault can ever inhibit free press," he said.

Angered by ongoing reports alleging breaches of freedom of the press, protesting journalists chanted against President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mohamed Badie, the group's Supreme Guide, whom critics believe to be the de facto ruler of the state.

"Kill us, kill us, you won't shut us up," and "liars, liars, the Brotherhood, the criminals," chanted the protesting journalists, as well as "down, down with the rule of the Supreme Guide."

On Saturday afternoon, several people, including some journalists, were reportedly assaulted by Brotherhood members as protesters were daubing anti-Brotherhood graffiti on the perimeter of the group's headquarters in Cairo's Mokattam district.

One piece of graffiti read "down with the rule of the Supreme Guide." Another depicted an arrow pointing to the Brotherhood headquarters and reading "sheep barn" – a reference to the frequent pejorative description of Brotherhood members as sheep.

Brotherhood members also reportedly attacked journalists who were covering a meeting between Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

Ahram Online spoke to some of journalists who were protesting outside the syndicate and who claimed to have been subject to assault on Saturday.

Othman Gamal, a journalist at independent newspaper Al-Fagr, claimed the Brotherhood members first provoked an artificial brawl among themselves to drag protesters into clashes.

Gamal said that Suhaib Mohamed, a bodyguard of leading Brotherhood member and powerbroker Khairat El-Shater, spearheaded the attack. He claimed Mohamed assaulted a senior police officer who then "retreated without taking any action."

"Police watched from the sidelines, although their chief was humiliated."

"Dozens of the Brotherhood member burst out of the building and started to attack us with bludgeons, chairs and electric batons," Gamal told Ahram Online.

Mohamed Talaat Dawood from Egypt’s privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper said he was slapped across the face, kicked to the ground and assaulted by El-Shater's guard who, he claimed, was wielding a knife.

Eyewitnesses said that staunch opposition activist Ahmed Doma, who sustained several injuries after being beaten up in the clashes, was deliberately targeted by assailants.

Sky News photographer Mohamed Shatta gave a similar account, asserting that the "scene was very peaceful and very calm at the outset" until Brotherhood members assaulted them with bludgeons and metal chairs.

"They particularly targeted anyone holding a camera," he said. "They chased me down the street, and I kept videoing while running away," he said, rolling up his sleeves to show some of the injuries to his arms.

Abu Dhabi-based Sudanese reporter, Roufayda Yassin, told Ahram Online in a telephone interview, that she arrived at the scene around noon to cover clashes reported in the media. "We did not represent any political quarter. We were just performing our work."

Yassin said she was verbally harassed after escaping attacks by batons, and her equipment was seized by assailants. "They tried to beat me and when I resisted, they told me 'you are the ones who are fanning the flames.' "

Following the protest outside the syndicate, protesting journalists made their way to the nearby prosecutor-general's office to voice their dissent over what they described as his unfavourable stance towards gross violations of freedom of speech.

Senior adviser to the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, Gehad El-Hadad, denied the allegations of assault, claiming that "such allegations are aimed to mislead public opinion."

"Attacking public and private property and writing inappropriate sentences are illegal and unethical acts," El-Hadad said.

Similarly, Yasser Mehrez, a Brotherhood spokesperson, claimed that clashes erupted because some people tried to break into the Brotherhood’s headquarters. 

"The young members of the Brotherhood did not intend to assault journalists or anyone else," he said. 

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