Egypt: silencing the echoes

  

The Aurelia Fierros’ Report │ Column 

  

  Egypt: silencing the echoes

A golden rule of journalism prevents any serious correspondent from becoming part of the story.  Unless, of course, extraordinary circumstances take place and the maker of the report ends up turning into the subject of it, inevitably.  Such has been the case in Egypt’s coverage.    

During the last 48 hours, more than 100 incidents involving the harm or incarceration of journalists were reported, including vicious attacks to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Fox Business Network’s Ashley Webster, Fox News’ Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig, NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, and two Associated Press correspondents.  Also, Al-Jazeera informed that three of its journalists were detained and another was reported missing.

Media outlets from all over the globe claim that their correspondents were hit with rocks, and beaten with sticks, and fists by pro-government mobs on the streets of Cairo while dozens were reported detained by security forces saying that their belongings, documentation and equipment were confiscated. 

The Egyptian government has accused the foreign press of supporting protesters who demand president Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, after nearly 30 years in power.

Shahira Amin, an Egyptian journalist resigned from Nile Television, a state-run network; denouncing years of censorship and news manipulation. 

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Thursday condemning pro-Mubarak supporters’ actions.  

“This has gone beyond censorship. This is now about ridding Cairo of all journalists working for foreign news media,” the group said. 

The leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain said in a joint statement that the “attacks against journalists are completely unacceptable.” 

In the United States, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many other public figures have condemned the repression and violence occurring on the streets of Cairo, and demanded the Egyptian government to immediately release any journalists who have been detained in the course of covering the country’s political unrest.

On Friday, which is the deadline protesters had given Mubarak to leave, as well as the main prayer day of the Muslim week, an estimate of more than 200 thousand people packed Tahrir Square; at the time President Obama reiterated his message: “an orderly transition must begin now”.

Today also sums the 11th day of bloody demonstrations with a count of over 300 people killed, including an Egyptian journalist.

Journalism as a profession is risky in itself, and there are records of censorship, detentions, and kidnappings during the coverage of relevant or historic events, but most likely, they would be counted as individual cases. Not so in Egypt’s exposure, which has been internationally condemned as ‘systematic targeting’ of journalists covering the conflict.

This is a complex story. This is a nation pending from a delicate ideological switch that could turn the other way any minute. But the exploring of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups in the region will be subject of review in a future occasion.

For now, we can say that, here we have a president that took a major role after Anwar Sadat assassination, considered a political ally of the U.S. and of Israel, a force for peace in the region and a recipient of resources –according to the State Department- for over $1.3 billion annually. However, he stayed too long, and he is certainly not helping the process of democratization in any way.

The brutality against Egyptian protestors and on-duty journalists is deeply disturbing and unacceptable.  The violent attacks perpetrated on the press are a desperate recourse and an assault on the people’s right to be informed.

Universal rights, as the right to peaceful assembly, association and speech, should never be repressed.  That should include the freedom of the press, which is –and always will be- the carrier of the echoes of suffering, injustice and truth.

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