Egyptian Forces Detain Reporters as Clashes Erupt , Demonstrations in Egypt

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Egyptian Forces Detain Reporters as Clashes Erupt

February 03, 2011, 2:33 PM EST

(Adds comment in second paragraph, U.S. reaction in seventh.)

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian security forces detained journalists and charity workers, and confiscated equipment as fighting broke out again today in Tahrir Square, where the army set up a barrier after more than 800 people were injured in yesterday’s clashes, according to international groups.

“The regime has decided to target media personnel physically by unleashing its supporters in an unprecedented campaign of hatred and violence,” 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.”

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 near Tahrir Square, the focus of nine consecutive days of protests aimed at forcing Mubarak to resign.

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 detentions and violence against journalists are an extension of that campaign of censorship, the campaign groups said.

No Witnesses

The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists described the attacks as an effort to “eliminate witnesses” of the protests that the United Nations says has left about 300 people dead and many more wounded since it began.

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser, spokeswoman for the CPJ, said in a phone interview that the group is looking into “multiple reports of dozens being arrested today.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs condemned the targeting of reporters, describing it as “completely and totally unacceptable.”

Among the journalists detained in Cairo since Feb. 2 are three France 24 television channel employees, the CFDT labor union said. The union called on France’s government to contact Egyptian authorities to seek their release. Journalists working for Time Warner Inc.’s CNN and Canada’s state-owned Radio Canada are among at least 11, who reported being assaulted yesterday.

Several aid workers were detained in raids on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, an Egyptian law firm based in Cairo and Aswan, including one working for Amnesty International and another for Human Rights Watch.

--Editors: Digby Lidstone, Andrew J. Barden.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net
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