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Journalists targeted, beaten by Mubarak supporters

world Updated: Feb 03, 2011 20:43 IST
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Journalists were on Thursday beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by raging supporters of Hosni Mubarak, even as the new Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq apologised for deadly unrest between the supporters and the protesters at Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"I offer all my apologies for what happened yesterday and there will be an enquiry," Shafiq told state television as the fighting on Tahrir raged for a second day with at least seven people dead.

Even as Shafiq, said earlier that the deadly unrest would be investigated, journalists became targets, beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by raging men, most all in some way aligned with President Mubarak, CNN, ABC News and other media outlets reported. They said members of their staffs had been attacked, most on the streets of Cairo yesterday, a day after the 82-year-old Mubarak refused to step down to end his 30-year reign.

In several cases, news personnel were accused of being "foreign spies," seized and whisked away, and often assaulted, the report said.

"It was pandemonium. There was no control. Suddenly a man would come up to you and punch you in the face," said CNN's Anderson Cooper, describing being attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators with two colleagues outside of Tahrir Square, the hub of Wednesday's bloody confrontations.

Mubarak's supporters turned up on the streets yesterday in significant numbers for the first time and some were hostile to journalists and foreigners.

CNN's Hala Gorani, who got caught in a stampede of demonstrators, some of whom were riding on camels and horses, said: "I got slammed against the gates and was threatened by one of the pro-Mubarak protesters who was ... telling me to 'get out, get out."

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news network was among the worst hit, its office damaged and several of its staff targeted.

Two Associated Press correspondents were also roughed up in Cairo. State TV had reported that foreigners were caught distributing anti-Mubarak leaflets, apparently trying to depict the movement as foreign-fueled.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy organisation, detailed about a dozen incidents, accusing men, most of them described as pro-Mubarak demonstrators, of perpetrating attacks on reporters.

The group laid the blame for this violence squarely on President Mubarak's administration, accusing it of scheming to suppress and stifle news coverage.

In a statement, Jean-Francois Juillard, secretary-general of the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said "the use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking."

"We urge the international community to react strongly to these excesses. And we remind the Egyptian government that it has a duty to apply the law and to urgently restore security for everyone, including media personnel."

(With inputs form AFP)