Egyptians Detain Reporters as Clashes Turn Violent

Egyptian security forces detained journalists as fighting broke out again today in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the army set up a barrier after more than 800 people were injured in yesterday’s clashes.

Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak stormed hotels in the capital searching for journalists, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya television channels reported today. Many members of the foreign press have been staying in hotels near Tahrir Square, a focal point for nine consecutive days of protests aimed at forcing Mubarak to resign.

“This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism,” Joel Simon, director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said in statement. His group has documented “systematic and sustained attacks” that “leave no doubt that a government-orchestrated effort to target the media and suppress the news is well underway,” he said.

Egypt has sought to curb the flow of information since rallies began. Authorities on Jan. 29 cut off access to the Internet for five days, and mobile services were down for at least two. Al Jazeera said it had to switch its transmission to another frequency as its signal on Nilesat was jammed. The U.S. said it has seen indications that the harassment and detention of journalists and aid workers were part of an organized campaign.

Attacks on Journalists

Among those detained and released were reporters for the New York Times and the Washington Post, according to those newspapers. Employees of Time Warner Inc.’s CNN, ABC World News, Fox News Channel, CBS News and Canada’s state- owned Radio Canada are among those who reported being attacked. A Fox correspondent and producer have been hospitalized, according to a list of attacks assembled by ABC News.

Three France 24 television channel employees have been detained, the CFDT labor union said. The union urged France’s government to contact Egyptian authorities to seek their release.

“The regime has decided to target media personnel physically by unleashing its supporters in an unprecedented campaign of hatred and violence,” the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, Jean-François Julliard, said in a statement, titled “All Out Witch Hunt.” They are trying to rid Cairo of “all journalists working for foreign news media.”

Aid workers have also been targets. Daniel Williams, a former Bloomberg News reporter who now works for Human Rights Watch, has been detained by the security police in Cairo, according to his group.

U.S. Condemnation

“We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on reporters covering the ongoing situation in Egypt, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at the State Department today. Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the imprisonment of two Brazilian journalists.

The U.S. has evidence that ‘‘elements close to’’ Egypt’s government or ruling party have played a role in the violent counter demonstrations in Cairo, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said today.

‘‘We have traced it to elements close to the government, or the ruling party,’’ Crowley told reporters in Washington. ‘‘I don’t know if we have a sense how far up the chain it went.’’

Crowley also said that there are ‘‘strong indications’’ the attacks on foreign aid workers, human rights advocates and journalists in Egypt have been centrally directed.

‘‘These do not seem to be random events,’’ he said. ‘‘There appear to be an effort to disrupt the ability of journalists to cover today’s events,’’ Crowley said.

Editors: Ann Hughey, Joe Sobczyk

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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