Reporter dies after being shot in Egypt
Anti-government protesters react in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011. (AP / Khalil Hamra)
Published Friday, February 4, 2011 8:37PM EST
An Egyptian reporter shot earlier this week has died of his wounds, the first reported journalist death in 11 days of anti-government demonstrations.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram says Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud was "shot by a sniper" while he was taking photos from his balcony four days ago, not far from central Tahrir Square.
The news comes as Egyptian authorities fielded a chorus of demands they better protect international journalists as the attacks and intimidation continued Friday.
The day after they spent several harrowing hours detained at gunpoint by Egyptian military two Canadian reporters were the target of an unruly mob.
Encouraged by the pro-Mubarak demonstrations that took place in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Mohandessin earlier this week, Globe and Mail reporters Patrick Martin and Sonia Verma went back Friday in the hopes of encountering more.
They were in the midst of a mob, Martin said in a call to the Globe and Mail newsroom, when they were suddenly attacked.
"Sonia Verma and I have just been attacked by a mob when they realized we were reporters," Martin said, describing how the crowd was particularly angered when they saw Verma shooting a video.
"You can hear the crowd baying for blood. People in local security groups have helped us off the street along with one policeman. But they're trying to get into this building. We're getting away as fast as we can," Martin said in his breathless call to the Globe.
Thanks to the intervention, Verma and Martin were whisked into a nearby apartment with the mob pressing behind them.
After a long, nervous wait, Martin said they were whisked to a taxi cab and returned to safety.
Reflecting on the events from relative safety on the east bank of the Nile a short while later, Martin said the mob he and Verma encountered Friday was markedly different from what they had witnessed in the same neighbourhood earlier in the week.
"The people there today were not the same people, these people were mad men, they were chanting for blood," Martin said, explaining the crowd's anger with both anti-Mubarak demonstrators and international journalists.
"It's interesting because we were over there to tell their story until this happened," Martin said.
Verma and Martin are just two of dozens of journalists who have been assaulted, detained or had their equipment seized in Cairo in recent days.
CTV's Martin Seemungal was detained briefly Friday by the army, who demanded to see his passport.
A Swedish journalist is recovering in a Cairo hospital after being stabbed in the back Thursday, and Czech public television is withdrawing its TV crew from Egypt because of the attacks on reporters.
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera also came under attack Friday, when its Cairo offices were burned along with the equipment inside.
The popular Pan-Arab broadcaster said its Arabic-language website was also attacked by hackers who replaced banner ad with a slogan reading "Together for the collapse of Egypt," which linked to a page criticizing the network.
"Our website has been under relentless attack since the onset of the uprisings in Egypt," the network said in a statement. "While the deliberate attacks this morning were an attempt to discredit us, we will continue our impartial and comprehensive coverage of these unprecedented events."
And non-governmental organizations have also been targeted, with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reporting three staff members missing since they were detained in military police raids earlier in the week.
According to the head of Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, the spate of assaults is without precedent.
"We've never seen anything like this. Not a single media outlet in Egypt today has escaped the violence," Jean-Francois Juillard told The Associated Press. "It's totally impossible to work as a journalist in Egypt today."
Reporters are "the eyes and the ears of the world at the moment," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at a European Union summit in Brussels Friday, as he urged Egyptian authorities to "respect the journalists."
In Geneva, the United Nation's high commissioner for human rights called the detentions of journalists "clearly a blatant attempt to stifle news."
Calling for an end to the violence -- as well as an investigation into who was behind it -- Navi Pillay said "one of the prime drivers of this chaos seems to have been the actions of Egypt's security and intelligence services".
Denmark's Foreign Minister Lene Espersen weighed in too, the day after Danes watched broadcasts of a Danish reporter and his cameraman being chased by an angry, club-wielding mob.
"We have seen a pattern in the past week's dramatic developments in Egypt where freedom of expression has been deliberately suppressed. We can in no way accept this," Espersen said.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said it was "Egyptian security forces' duty to protect peaceful demonstrators, foreign observers and journalists."
"Those who initiated those outbursts of violence, or initiate them from the background, have to be held to account, also by the judiciary," Westerwelle said.
Russia has also weighed in with a statement Friday that, "we consider the oppression of mass media representatives working within the law to be unacceptable."
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon also spoke out on Thursday, telling reporters his government has expressed its "grave concerns" to officials at the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa.
With files from The Associated Press