NPR Reporter, Other Media Targeted In Egypt

Journalists, human-rights workers and foreigners in Egypt have come under attack by angry mobs all over Cairo. The security forces are also cracking down. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International personnel are missing after the office they were working at was raided. At least two dozen journalists have also been detained, and others have had their equipment confiscated. Reuters, Fox News, the BBC, Al-Jazeera , The Washington Post and others have all reported incidents.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was also attacked. She has this report.


We were in the neighborhood of Dokki, a middle-class area of quiet leafy streets across the river from the fighting at Tahrir, or Liberation, Square. The idea was to talk to people away from the clashes to see what was happening in their neighborhoods — how they found food and money and dealt with security.

We were speaking with a taxi driver who was telling us what he thought about conditions in the city when, all of a sudden, things took a turn.

One man shouted, "Who are you exactly; I want to know exactly who you are."

Then at least a dozen men surrounded us demanding to see our IDs. We were asked if we were Israeli spies, or employees of the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera, who have been a particular target of the authorities here.

It began to get heated and they wouldn't let us leave.

I tried to run to the car to get our driver. I was followed and surrounded in the vehicle. Meanwhile, an Egyptian-American colleague, Ashraf Khalil, was repeatedly punched in the face.

After about 10 minutes, the army showed up and calmed the mob. We were briefly detained for our own protection and then sent on our way.

This happened in a regular neighborhood in Cairo, a ways away from the violence in the city.

Khalil is a longtime resident of Cairo. He says Egyptians are usually welcoming of foreigners because of the booming tourism industry here.

"What happened today — I've lived here on and off since 1997 — I did not think they had it in them, this kind of violent paranoia and xenophobia," he says. "I've never seen Egypt like this."

Near Tahrir Square, where the fighting was thickest, the targeting of journalists was more organized and systematic.

Pro-Mubarak supporters beat several journalists. One Greek reporter was whipped with batons and stabbed in the leg. Everything he had was stolen.

The experience of Time magazine's Andrew Butters was typical. He says even though bands of armed men are carrying out the attacks, the security services, at least in some parts of the city, seem to be orchestrating it.

"I was grabbed by a young guy with a club who hauled me over to an improvised checkpoint," he says. "A few of them punched me and what was clear what they were doing [was] coordinating with the police and rounding up all foreigners and they were being coordinated and commanded by an agent from the Interior Ministry who looked straight out of central casting, with leather trench coat and walkie-talkie."

Butters was eventually let go. But at least two dozen other journalists have been hauled into the Interior Ministry — among them Leila Fadel of The Washington Post.

U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting. We condemn such actions."

NPR has received reports of foreign civilians being attacked. One American woman who works in Egypt as a researcher was surrounded outside a metro station in downtown Cairo and accused of being an infiltrator. Her Egyptian companion was beaten, and the American was handed over to the army.

Egyptian State Television has been whipping up people over the past week of demonstrations, blaming the anti-government protests on "foreign agents" and accusing international journalists of stoking the uprising.

It is clear that the Hosni Mubarak regime does not want what is happening here to be broadcast to the world.

Human Rights Watch — which also had a foreign researcher arrested today — released a statement saying, "This is part of a clear campaign against independent eyewitnesses of the violence in Egypt."

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