Al Jazeera’s office in Cairo was stormed by a “gang of thugs” and set on fire along with all the equipment inside it, the Arab news network said Friday.
“It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country,” the news network said in a statement.
“In the last week its bureau was forcibly closed, all its journalists had press credentials revoked, and nine journalists were detained at various stages. Al Jazeera has also faced unprecedented levels of interference in its broadcast signal as well as persistent and repeated attempts to bring down its websites.”
“We are grateful for the support we have received from across the world for our coverage in Egypt and can assure everyone that we will continue our work undeterred,” the statement added.
Al Jazaeera also said its website “has been under relentless attack since the onset of the uprisings in Egypt.” A banner advertisment on the news network’s Arabic-language website was hacked Friday and replaced with a slogan reading, “Together for the collapse of Egypt.” The banner linked to a page critical of the network.
The international free press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said there appears to be “an all-out witch-hunt against news media” in Egypt.
“Theft, violence, arbitrary arrests and extreme violence… the list of abuses against journalists by President Mubarak’s supporters is getting longer by the hour and they are clearly systematic and concerted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.
“After shutting down the Internet and then reconnecting it at the start of this week, the regime has decided to target media personnel physically by unleashing its supporters in an unprecedented campaign of hatred and violence,” he added. “This has gone beyond censorship. This is now about ridding Cairo of all journalists working for foreign news media.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it recorded 30 detentions 30 detentions, 26 assaults, and eight instances of equipment having been seized within a 24 hour period in Egypt. State television has reported that foreign journalists are actually “Israeli spies” involved in an elaborate plot to destabilize Egypt.
Reporters from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Globe and Mail, Fox News, and The Associated Press are among those to have been attacked or detained.
CNN reporter Anderson Cooper admitted Thursday he was “a little bit scared” for his safety after being repeatedly attacked by supporters of President Mubarak. He and his crew were violently attacked by pro-Mubarak forces Wednesday as they tried to make their way through the streets of Cairo.
ABC’s Christiane Amanpour faced similar treatment. While trying to talk to Mubarak supporters, she was threatened and told to turn back. Upon retreating, she had the windshield of her car broken with a rock.
Sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists that numerous Egyptian journalists for state-owned or government-aligned media have resigned or have refused to work.
“I can’t be part of the propaganda machine,” Shahira Amin, a broadcaster at the Egyptian state-run Nile TV station, said. “I’m not going to sheath the public eyes.”