Al-Jazeera Office in Cairo Ransacked as Intimidation of Journalists Continues

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Al-Jazeera Office in Cairo Ransacked as Intimidation of Journalists Continues

by
Mark Sweney

An image grab taken from Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat last weekend shows a service disruption message

The Cairo office of al-Jazeera
was ransacked by pro-government "thugs" today, as the Arabic language
news channel also said its news website had come under attack by
hackers.

Al-Jazeera said its office had been stormed by a "gang of thugs" who burned equipment, on a day of reports of escalating violence against journalists covering the Egyptian uprising.

The
Qatar-based broadcaster added that the attacks appeared to be an
attempt by "the Egyptian regime or its supporters" to hinder its widely
watched coverage of the uprising in Egypt.

It
said its website had been hacked earlier today with a banner
advertisement replaced with a slogan "Together for the collapse of
Egypt", which linked through to a web page with content critical of the
network. The banner remained in place for two hours.

"Our website
has been under relentless attack since the onset of the uprisings in
Egypt [and] we are currently investigating what happened today," said a
spokesman for al-Jazeera. "While the deliberate attacks this morning
were an attempt to discredit us we will continue our impartial and
comprehensive coverage of these unprecedented events."

Last week
al-Jazeera's Cairo office was closed by the Egyptian authorities. The
broadcaster's reporters have also had their press credentials revoked
and nine were detained for periods of time.

In other recent
incidents, Swedish TV reporter Bert Sundstrom was in a serious condition
in Cairo hospital after being stabbed in the back, according to
Associated Press. Dan Nolan, al-Jazeera's UAE correspondent, tweeted
today that unfortunately the decision had been taken that it was now too dangerous to remain in Cairo.

"Sadly
I'm catching [a] plane out of Cairo today," he said. "Threats to us
been about too much. Need to spend some time with family and hope to
return soon."

CNN's star reporter Anderson Cooper, who on Wednesday was "roughed up" by thugs on a Cairo street, tweeted today that CNN was now broadcasting from an "undisclosed location" in the city to "stay live as long as we can".

Guardian
journalists Peter Beaumont and Jack Shenker were prevented from
entering Cairo's Tahrir Square earlier today by both the Egyptian army
and armed vigilantes.

Beaumont said the pair were picked up by the
army at a checkpoint and made to kneel facing a wall and interrogated.
They then had to deal with machete-wielding vigilantes, he added.

However,
according to Reuters the Egyptian army has been instructed to assist
foreign media and help protect them from groups who have attacked and
beaten journalists. Britain and the US have criticised what the US
called a "concerted campaign" to intimidate foreign reporters.

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