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Egypt: War Waged on Press, Human Rights Defenders

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

Egyptian protesters are calling for massive anti-Mubarak marches across the country, after the Friday prayers tomorrow. Last week, Mubarak's regime cut off the Internet before Egypt's Day of Wrath. Today, reports continued all day of arrests of activists, and the arrest, bullying and harassment of journalists ahead of “Departure Friday.”

Friday of Departure - Cairo

Organisers call for a protest in front of the presidential Heliopolis Palace on 4 February, dubbed the "Friday of Departure". Cairo, Egypt. Image: Demotix copyright Adham Khorshed.

The goal is to leave the marchers without leadership, and bully the journalists into stopping their coverage of the protests, which have been continuing for 10 days. The mood is ominous, with many saying it could be a prelude to a massacre:

@laranasser: #Tahrir Sq. is being evacuated from all journos&media reporters! The Regime is planning to trap protesters away from eyewitnesses! #tahrir

@hammametsou: Traitor mubarak planning Fri massacre. Last time he used phone/internet blackout 4his crimes this time arrested majority journalist #egypt

@ANaje tweets:

الناس بيتقبض عليهم في الشوارع المؤدية لوسط البلد وميدان التحرير
People are being arrested on the streets leading to down town and Tahrir Square!

uwe_a continues:

@uwe_a: #egypt local anchor quitting,foreign journalist handcuffed & blindfolded, newspapers attacked, blogers arrested, fullscale blackout #jan25

Others are asking what is happening:

@Suo_Fei: What is happening to journalists on Tahrir Square is a scandal!! #jan25

The Committee to Protect Journalists has already issued a statement, condemning the attacks:

“This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The systematic and sustained attacks documented by CPJ leave no doubt that a government-orchestrated effort to target the media and suppress the news is well under way. With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world's worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran and Cuba.

“We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action,” said Simon, “and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately.”

In the past 24 hours alone, CPJ has recorded 24 detentions, 21 assaults, and five instances of equipment having been seized. In addition, plainclothes and uniformed agents reportedly entered at least two hotels used by international journalists to confiscate press equipment. On Wednesday, CPJ documented numerous earlier assaults, detentions, and confiscations. Mubarak forces have attacked the very breadth of global journalism: Their targets have included Egyptians and other Arab journalists, Russian and U.S. reporters, Europeans and South Americans.

“The attacks on journalists, which began last week, have now intensified to levels unseen in Egypt's modern history,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We are concerned for the safety of our colleagues, and we're alarmed at the prospect of these witnesses being sidelined at this crucial moment in Egyptian history.”

The CPJ also provides an up-to-date list of the attacks journalists have been subjected to.

Meanwhile, the reports continue on Twitter:

@draddee: Greek journalist stabbed while covering Tahrir sq. #jan25 Via AJ

@khnidk: reports of reporters being confined to their hotel rooms, no cameras no phones, prelude to massacre? #Jan25

@AymanM: 3 #aljazeera journalists arrested in #egypt 1 #aljazeera journalist still missing #jan25 #tahrir

@Salamander: Egyptian security seize BBC equipment at Cairo Hilton in attempt to stop us broadcasting.

@economistjane: #Egypt state TV has labelled some foreign journos “Israeli spies”; one was said to have been trained by Israelis in Qatar!

@marwarakha: RT @ReemNour @BilalElbazz I refuse to work as long as EgyTV is the way it is.I wont lie to people or myself. If it doesnt change, I'll quit.

@Tantoune: @AymanM: Two dozen journalists unaccounted for, arrested, attacked in #egypt on Thursday #jan25 #tahrir

The missing journalists have not gone unnoticed.

@draddee: AJA hasn't shown live images of Tahrir in a while, have their cameras been confiscated again?

Activists, lawyers and human rights defenders too, have had their share of today's crackdown.

@monasosh shares a personal detail:

They arrested my father & all brave human rights lawyers, called them spies for hamas & iran so the ppl would turn against them #Jan25

Others quote mainstream media:

@Jnoubiyeh: Al Jazeera: Security forces have assaulted two human rights organizations and have arrested at least 2 people. #Egypt #Jan25 #Mubarak

And the arrests continue. Wael Abbas notes:

@waelabbas: Human Rights Watch researcher Dan Williams among those arrested at Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, at least 24 journalists so far, equipment conf

Will this effect the morale of Egyptians readying themselves for tomorrow's march?

@rdeancutting: Watching leaderless people organize themselves on AJE stream. Hospitals. Food. Security. Who needs leaders? Authoritarians? #Jan25 #Tahrir

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

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