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NPR Reporter, Other Media Targeted In Egypt

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NPR Reporter, Other Media Targeted In Egypt

NPR Reporter, Other Media Targeted In Egypt

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

In Egypt, protests appear to have reached a new phase. Yesterday, we saw supporters of President Hosni Mubarak attack anti-government demonstrators. Today, journalists, human-rights workers and foreigners in Cairo were targeted by angry mobs and by security forces.

SIEGEL: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International personnel are missing after the office they were working at was raided. And at least two dozen journalists have been detained, while others have had their equipment confiscated. Reuters, Fox News, the BBC, Al-Jazeera and The Washington Post have all reported incidents.

NPR's own Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was also attacked, and she sent this report.

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

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: He's a driver.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: 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 for the worst.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who are you exactly, one man shouted. I want to know exactly who you are.

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 the city. He says Egyptians are usually welcoming of foreigners because of the booming tourism industry here.

Mr. ASHRAF KHALIL: 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. I've never seen Egypt like this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Near Tahrir, or Liberation, 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.

Andrew Butters works for Time magazine. His experience 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 them.

Mr. ANDREW BUTTERS (Correspondent, Time Magazine): I was grabbed by a young guy with a club who hauled me over to an improvised checkpoint, and a few of them punched me. And what was clear they were doing was they were 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.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He was also 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, quote, "There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting. We condemn such actions."

NPR has also received reports of foreign civilians being harassed. One American woman who works here as a researcher was surrounded outside a metro station in downtown Cairo and accused of being an infiltrator. Her Egyptian companion was beaten, and she 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 the international media of stoking the uprising.

Today, new vice president Omar Suleiman insisted the chaos was part of a foreign conspiracy. 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, quote, "This is part of a clear campaign against independent eyewitnesses of the violence in Egypt."

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Cairo.

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