Rights groups decry attacks on journalists in Egypt


Egyptian protesters shout anti-military slogans during a demonstration in Alexandria on May 4, 2012.

CAIRO, Egypt -- Two rights groups have denounced attacks on journalists covering the huge demonstration in Cairo on Friday, just weeks before the country holds its historic presidential election vote.

Thousands demonstrated against the ruling military in Tahrir Square while a spin-off group marched to the ministry of defense in the Cairo neighborhood of Abbasiyah -- the scene of deadly clashes last week that killed at least 11 people and angered many here.

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The Abbasiyah protest quickly turned violent, with reports of security forces firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters in clashes that left hundreds wounded, said the Associated Press. Lawyers said many as three hundred people were reportedly rounded up and arrested. 

The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said at least 18 journalists were targeted as they reported on the violence there, highlighting the case of Masrawy reporter Mohamed Raafat, who was assaulted and shot at with pellets by unknown assailants as he tried to film them attacking protesters, according to his own statements and those of his employer.

Two reporters for the the online independent daily Al-Badil, Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abu al-Ezz, told CPJ said they were severely beaten by officers while trying to cover events in Abbasiyah, according to CPJ.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also issued a statement saying over 30 journalists were attacked during the protests, with some 19 arrested, 11 wounded, and one reportedly kidnapped. The group also called on the authorities to return reporting equipment confiscated from seven reporters as they were covering the incident.

The press advocacy group said it "strongly condemns such brutal treatment" of the press, saying recent events show that Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces are "deservedly" represented in the group's recently-released list of Predators of Freedom of Information.

The LA Times noted that Egypt's ruling establishment "has refined its skills at manipulating state media" by spreading rumors that opposition or independent journalists and bloggers are actually working on behalf of foreign interests, while members of the international press are frequently referred to as "spies."