Staff members of broadcaster Al Jazeera have been detained in Cairo after Egyptian forces raided the company’s offices. The company is demanding their immediate release.
The broadcaster said 28 Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr staff members were detained, with most released later. But the channel’s managing director, Ayman Gaballah, and Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast engineer, Ahmad Hasan, remain in custody.
In the latest development, Associated Press Television News has been ordered to deny Al Jazeera channels access to their live services. Cairo News Company (CNC) has also been told to withhold access to broadcast equipment such as SNGs.
Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, condemned the moves. “Ayman and Ahmad must be released unharmed immediately. Media offices should not be subject to raids and intimidation. Journalists should not be detained for doing their jobs.”
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), said it was concerned by the reports that authorities “are shutting down television coverage based on political perspective,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “We urge the military not to deprive Egyptians of information sources at this important juncture.”
He was responding to reports that three other television channels, all deemed to be pro-Morsi by Egyptian authorities, were also shut down. The CPJ also called on the Egyptian military to refrain from exercising editorial control over state-owned media as the country’s political crisis deepens.
Misr25, the Muslim Brotherhood’s television station, went off the air minutes after General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister, announced Morsi’s ouster, the CPJ said. The organisation reported that a live feed from Misr25 that was being carried by Al-Jazeera English suddenly went black, as did the outlet’s live YouTube feed. Misr25 had carried news and commentary that directly reflected the Muslim Brotherhood’s political perspective.
“Those in power have long used state media as their political tool,” said Mansour, “But in these critical times, when Egyptians are desperate for independent information, the news media should not be political pawns.”
The CPJ, military units entered the state media newsroom today to monitor content and ensure the military’s messages were broadcast.
Al Jazeera’s Souag said the world tuned in to Al Jazeera when big events took place in Egypt. “The viewing public will not accept being cut-off from news and information. Regardless of political views, the Egyptian people expect media freedoms to be respected and upheld,” he said. “We are grateful to all the media organisations giving us their support on these matters.
“Al Jazeera has always reported comprehensively in Egypt, even in difficult circumstances. We will continue to do that with our usual approach of encompassing all opinions with accuracy, balance and fairness,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Egyptian station began broadcasting after the 2011 revolution that topped President Hosni Mubarak and has been accused by critics of being sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.