The press freedom organisations Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned the Friday raid on the Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr offices in Agouza, Dokki and Imbaba in which government agents seized gear including two vehicles and a number of cameras, microphones and broadcasting equipment.
“Egyptian security forces continue to detain and harass journalists working for news outlets critical of the military-led government, particularly Al-Jazeera and its affiliates,” said the CPJ via a press release. “Journalists also still face physical threats from protesters, as tensions persist between the government and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.”
Since the January 25th Revolution many Egyptians have seen Al-Jazeera as being sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the ouster of Morsi, an Al-Jazeera journalist was booed out of an army press conference after the 8 July attack of near the Republican Guard Headquarters, and posters with a bloody version of the station’s logo were hung around Cairo in the summer.
The Friday crackdown followed a week in which three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested, and a statement was issued by the Ministry of Investment, Information and Communications Technology and Media declaring the Qatar-based channel illegal. The ministry’s statement denied that Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr was properly licensed to broadcast and said that it was “spreading lies and rumours damaging to Egyptian national security and unity.”
The Al-Jazeera journalists arrested on Tuesday are correspondent Wayne Hay, cameraman Adil Bradlow and producer Russ Finn. They are being detained without charges, according to the CPJ.
The Ministry of Interior had no information regarding the status of the journalists arrested on Tuesday, according to spokesman Lt. Col. Mohsen Sarhan.
Their arrests follow the 15 July arrest of Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Badr for “threatening national security,” and the 14 August arrest of Al-Jazeera correspondent Abdullah Al-Shami for possession of weapons while covering the sit-in dispersal at Rabaa Al-Adaweya.
Advocates for freedom of expression in Egypt have also been critical of the move to raid the office.
“This seems to be consistent with the interim government’s strategy. The crackdown has progressively escalated and it’s another indication that the interim government is not very interested in ideological competition,” said Mohamad Elmasry, graduate chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at The American University in Cairo.
“It appears as though anyone who declares what happened on 3 July a military coup is at risk to be silenced either by being arrested or other means,” added Elmasry.
Ahmed Ezza, spokesman for the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, described the raid on the Al-Jazeera office as “illegal”.
“The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression refuses any arbitrary procedures against media channels without a judge’s order,” said Ezza. “The only authority that has the right to close down any media channels or newspapers is the court. But the administrative procedures are illegal and considered an attack against freedom of media and freedom of expression.”
According to a Saturday press release by the Ministry of Interior, during the raid police confiscated two vehicles, five live broadcast systems, four video cameras, two battery chargers, three microphones and audio and imaging devices.
Al-Jazeera failed to reply to requests for comments.