Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq appeared to feign surprise Sunday when he was told that journalists and human rights activists had been arrested at anti-government protests in his country.
“Why are you detaining them?” CNN’s Candy Crowley asked.
“Oh, frankly speaking, it’s not intended at all my dear,” Shafiq replied. “I insist to assure all of the authorities here not to ban anyone or not to bother anyone doing his work. But during some periods, such as the period we’re passing now, you will not be — it’s rather difficult to be sure 100 percent that this man or [some] men [aren’t exhibiting] some bad behavior.”
Shafiq added that officers who arrest reporters or activists should be “excused” because they may not know what the reporters and activists are doing at the protest, adding again, “This is not at all intended, my dear.”
Al Jazeera said last week that six of their reporters had been arrested and later released.
On Thursday, ABC News released a comprehensive list of dozens of reporters that had either been threatened or detained while doing their jobs.
Since then, Al Jazeera reporters Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros have also reportedly been arrested.
“We were told by our reporters today that you have arrested another Al Jazeera reporter from Al Jazeera English as well as more human rights activists,” Crowley told Shafiq. “Do you have a way to get them to stop those arrests?”
“After our telephone now, our contact now, I will go directly to check this point,” the prime minister said. “They are not allowed at all to do something like that.”
Shafiq also insisted that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would not leave office before September although demonstrators are calling for him to step down now.
“A lot of points must be covered before he leaves,” he said.
This video is from CNN’s State of the Union, broadcast Feb. 6, 2011.