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Detaining Journalists: Safety or Suppression?

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Radio-Television Digital News Association Digital Media Editor Ryan Murphy reported Thursday that detentions of journalists in Egypt has "sparked a debate" over whether those detentions "are being executed as a way to protect journalists or as a way to suppress news coverage."

That came in a story for the association's Web site.

Ryan talked about both the attacks on journalists and the growing detentions.

"Journalists' safety is paramount," RTDNA Chairman Mark Kraham said in the story. "Violence of any kind against journalists is absolutely unacceptable. We insist the Egyptian government offer safety to visiting journalists and commend each and every journalist who has risked their safety and lives to report crucial information. We thank you for continuing this battle and urge you to move forward as safely as possible."

In most reporting of the crackdown, the detentions are being viewed solely as another form of intimidation, rather than some kind of security measure, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that "there is a clear responsibility by the Egyptian Government, including the army, to protect those threatened and to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks."

Still, that is hardly a call for taking reporters off the streets and, in some cases, destroying their equipment.
Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director of Reporters Without Borders, questioned the suggestion that any detentions were for journalist's protection. "I would not say it is a way to protect them," she said. "It is nothing I have ever heard before. I have never been told by a reporter abroad [who was detained] that it was actually to protect them. If it is, it is a really weird strategy," she said.

Le Coz told B&C that Reporters Without Borders had so-far compiled a list of 26 cases of journalists being detained for between three hours and 24 hours. She said there were reports that one of those journalists was in a coma, but that she was still working on confirming that information.