Eighteen journalists captured by ‘thugs’ while covering the protests in Egypt have been secured by the military and taken to a ‘safe place’, media reports said on Friday.
This came after the country’s cabinet — spurred by protests from across the world over the way reporters were being treated — instructed the army to assist foreign media and protect them from groups in plain clothes who have been attacking and beating up journalists as Cairo’s streets become more and more lawless.
Foreign journalists reported attacks by supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak near the capital’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of the increasingly violent demonstrations. This led to sharply limited television coverage of the protests on Thursday.
In the latest incident, the Al-Jazeera network on Friday said a “gang of thugs” stormed its Cairo office and burned the facility and equipment there.
Other news outlets — including the BBC, ABC News, the Washington Post, Fox News and CNN — also said their staff had been attacked or targeted.
Two reporters working for The New York Times were detained overnight and released, the newspaper said.
The Washington Post's Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel and photographer Linda Davidson were detained covering Thursday's protests. They were later released but Egyptian authorities told them they were not permitted to leave a hotel near the airport, the Post said.
Among other cases, Reuters television said one of its crew was beaten up on Thursday close to Tahrir Square while filming a piece about shops and banks being forced to shut.
The US had on Thursday condemned a "concerted campaign" to intimidate foreign reporters covering the protests and said Egypt must not target journalists. Britain had also criticised the harassment of journalists.