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CPJ: Egyptian State Broadcasters Are Creating Atmosphere That Encourages Violence

In a call with Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman Saturday, U.S.Vice President Joe Biden called for the immediate release of journalists and others detained without cause, as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said attacks continued into the weekend on news media, and said the Egyptian government-owned media were making even tougher on journalists.

According to a White House read-out of the phone call, Biden expressed concern over "continued raids on civil society."

Meanwhile, the Committee To Protect Journalists continued to track the attacks, and they continued to grow. It has so far documented 114 detentions, assaults and destruction of equipment.

And CPJ says the Egyptian government is fanning the flames. "[S]tate broadcasts are creating an atmosphere that is encouraging violence against the media," the group said late Saturday.

That includes state-run TV and radio, as well as private stations they said were giving airtime to the charge that "foreigners," including journalists, had a hidden agenda. It also said that local Egyptian journalists were being branded infidels for working with their international counterparts.

"While officials in the Mubarak government publicly pledge to uphold the rights of journalists, state media are blaming the press for the unrest," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "In the current climate, such rhetoric is extremely dangerous, as it could be interpreted as a green light to violent forces that have engaged in a systematic campaign to intimidate journalists."

There was some good news. CPJ said Al Jazeera tweeted Saturday that its Cairo Bureau Chief and another staffer had been released.

But there was also plenty of new evidence of intimidation. The following are some of the latest incidents documented by CPJ.

·  "On Sunday, Egyptian soldiers beat James Hider, Middle East correspondent for The Times of London, at gunpoint, his sister, Claire Hider, told CPJ in an e-mail.

·  "On Feb. 4, Micah Garen, a photographer and documentary filmmaker, was detained by the military in Zamalek, in Cairo. "They started searching our stuff, and they became very angry when I told them I was a journalist. They looked at my pictures (of people in Tahrir) and said the photographs were illegal. They then took me and two Egyptians I was with to their commander on the other side of the bridge. When I told the commander I was an American, he stared at me coldly and said, ‘Wake up.' He then took the flash card from my camera (after I had deleted the images), told me I wasn't allowed to take pictures of demonstrations, and let us go. The whole incident lasted about 30 minutes. We were left having to walk a half hour in the dark to our hotel since there were no taxis and only more checkpoints," Garen told CPJ in an e-mail.· "Wissam Charaf, French reporter of Lebanese origin working for Franco-German TV network Arte, was briefly detained on Thursday, according to news reports. His passport was confiscated along with his mobile phone and tapes.· "Carole Kerbage, a reporter for the Lebanese Al-Safir daily, was detained today, Al-Safir Shabab tweeted.·  "Hamish McDonald, senior foreign correspondent and presenter for Ten Network Australia, tweeted that he was detained briefly on Friday and released.· "Osama Abdel Aziz, a journalist working for Al-Jazeera, was released today, the Qatar-based station reported. Abdel Aziz was arrested on January 31 at Cairo's airport, according to news reports.·  "Lindsey Hilsum, a Channel 4 News international editor, tweeted that she saw journalists being detained today. "Checkpoint on road fm Alex to Cairo collecting journalists--we've bn here nearly an hour," she wrote.·  "Mazhar Abbas, director of news for private Pakistani TV channel ARY News, told CPJ in an e-mail that a crew in Cairo has faced numerous hurdles in their reporting since they arrived on Thursday. Abbas said officials have seized their equipment and that they have been chased and threatened.·  "Freelance journalist Theodore May tweeted that he was "released after an hour+ detention by the military for filming with a Flip cam in Tahrir" and that officers forced him to delete his material."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.