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08-02-11 - Detained Al Jazeera Journalist - '[The Military] Viewed So Many of Us as Prisoners of War

08-02-11 - Detained Al Jazeera Journalist - '[The Military] Viewed So Many of Us as Prisoners of War

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Published by William J Greenberg
[Mohyeldin] also talks about how the Mubarak regime has attempted to silence Al Jazeera. Despite its journalists being arrested and threatened, its offices set on fire and its satellite system cut off, Al Jazeera’s news coverage of the popular uprising has been unchallenged by other news outlets and is battling Egypt’s pro-Mubarak TV outlets for delivering truth to Egyptians
[Mohyeldin] also talks about how the Mubarak regime has attempted to silence Al Jazeera. Despite its journalists being arrested and threatened, its offices set on fire and its satellite system cut off, Al Jazeera’s news coverage of the popular uprising has been unchallenged by other news outlets and is battling Egypt’s pro-Mubarak TV outlets for delivering truth to Egyptians

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Feb 08, 2011
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Detained Al Jazeera Journalist: '[TheMilitary] Viewed So Many of Us as Prisonersof War. Our Hands were Tied Behind OurBack with Cables. Our Eyes wereBlindfolded.
Ayman Mohyeldin, the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, was detained by Egyptian police and held for seven hours. Inside the jail, Mohyeldin witnessed rampant police abuse. "Wesaw the military slap detainees, we saw them kick detainees, we saw them punch them,"Mohyeldin said. "One of the soldiers that I was observing had with him a small Taser gun." Healso talks about how the Mubarak regime has attempted to silence Al Jazeera. Despite its journalists being arrested and threatened, its offices set on fire and its satellite system cut off, AlJazeera’s news coverage of the popular uprising has been unchallenged by other news outlets andis battling Egypt’s pro-Mubarak TV outlets for delivering truth to Egyptians. “I think Al JazeeraArabic and Al Jazeera English have something important to offer. They’re offering the viewersaround the world a context that may sometimes be missing from a lot of Western and foreignmedia,” Mohyeldin says, who was detained by security forces for questioning on Sunday. “Moreimportantly, they’re offering the viewers a view of this country that I think is very hard to get inthe absence of less and less media. So, if they were to take Al Jazeera off the air and silence uscompletely, it would be a great disservice to humanity, and particularly to information.”
AMY GOODMAN:
We’re going to remain in Cairo now and remain with Al Jazeera English.We’re going to go now to
 Democracy Now!
senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who hasmade it into the studio. We’re also joined in Cairo by Ayman Mohyeldin, the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English. On Sunday, he was arrested and then released after being held for sevenhours.Hi, Sharif.
 
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS:
Hi, Amy. Thank you for having us. Standing with me isAyman Mohyeldin. He’s the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera. He was detained on Monday for several hours. He’s been here since July.Ayman, talk about what happened when you tried to enter Tahrir on Monday.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN:
Well, as we have been for every morning throughout these protests,we’ve been making our way into Liberation Square in the morning, in the early hours. And onthat particular day, as I was entering, I was actually stopped by one of the military officers whowas there, and he asked for my identification. I presented him with my identification, particularlymy passport. When he asked me what it is that I do, I told him I was a foreign journalist, and Iwas coming here. And it seemed to be really enough for him, because he didn’t ask me any other questions. He simply took my belongings and handed me over to military police, which thenescorted me to a little holding area, where I was for several hours.And throughout the course of the day, I was immediately, when I arrived to that holding area,escorted by the military police. We had all of our belongings taken off of us. We werehandcuffed, our hands behind our back, and we were blindfolded. And we were essentially askedto sit on the ground on the pavement for about nine hours or so. And throughout the course of theday, we were interrogated a few times by different people. And ultimately, they had told us thatthey were going to transfer us to military intelligence, though I think had it not been really for the intervention of a lot of the online community and a lot of people who pressed the governmentfor the release of the two journalists that were there, myself and a cameraman, we would nothave been released as quickly as we were, in nine hours.It was a long day, but certainly there have been journalists, including the Al Jazeera Arabic bureau chief, who was detained overnight, and he, too, went through a similar process and wasnot released for quite some time, actually.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS:
Now, Ayman, we’ve see a crackdown on journalists, andespecially on Al Jazeera. I remember on Wednesday when the
baltaguia
attacked the protestersin Tahrir. One of them asked me if I had seen any Al Jazeera journalists. He drew a finger acrosshis throat. A lot were cursing Al Jazeera. Why has this channel come under particular attack bythe Mubarak regime?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN:
Well, I think, you know, when you look at the relationship that theEgyptian government, particularly the Mubarak regime, has had with Al Jazeera, it is definitelyone that they have been disappointed with our coverage. I think they felt that our coverage has been, in some ways, inflammatory, and they have accused us of all kinds of incitement, really. Nothing could be really further from the truth in terms of our reporting, because on many of thedays that the government was the most upset with us, most of our coverage was essentially justlive reporting from either outside our window, showing the world what was happening. We’vededicated a lot of resources across the country in places where other reporters weren’t, such as
 
Suez and Alexandria and Mahalla. And we really tried to show the world what was happeningreally on all levels of Egypt. And I think the Egyptian government, you know, was extremelynervous about that. It wasn’t prepared to handle that.It shut down our offices. It cut off our uplink facilities. It put pressure on other news providers,other news agencies, to not work with Al Jazeera. Our staff was arrested. We had—as youmentioned, there was a huge deal of public incitement against Al Jazeera on state television.People were looking for us at hotels, threatening us. So there was a very strong campaign by theEgyptian government and elements that are affiliated with the Egyptian government to try toreally silence Al Jazeera by any means. And it was really tragic and unfortunate, given what washappening and the importance of trying to show the world what was really happening here on theground.
AMY GOODMAN:
Ayman, could you talk about how this compares, the enormous pressurethat Egypt has put on Al Jazeera throughout Egypt, with the coverage you were doing in Gaza?You were the only journalist who was there in Gaza during the Israeli assault on Gaza, onlyforeign correspondent.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN:
That’s right, Amy. Well, you know, it’s slightly differentenvironments. Both had their own elements of danger and risk. You know, when we werereporting in Gaza, we were in the middle of a war, and it was a war that didn’t spare anybody,whether it were journalists or ordinary civilians. So, in that sense, we were caught up likeordinary people there.Here, the measures that journalists are taking to try to be a little bit more cautious and on the safeside seems to not be enough, because the Egyptian government, at least as far as Al Jazeera isconcerned, is really targeting Al Jazeera. I mean, we are officially banned from working here onthe ground. Our staff, as I was saying, has been arrested. Our uplink facilities have been cut off.Our equipment has been confiscated. Our permits have been revoked, so too our press passes.And there’s a huge public campaign of incitement against our staff as well as our bureau. Our offices, even after we left them, had been torched. So, there is a much more concentrated effort by the government specifically targeting Al Jazeera, and I think that is a great disservice not onlyto the Egyptian population, but to viewers really all around the world.
AMY GOODMAN:
And Ayman, who is doing this exactly?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS:
And Ayman, will you continue to—go ahead, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN:
I was just asking, who exactly is doing this? Who raided the offices? Whotorched the offices?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN:
Well, Amy, that’s a really good question, because, you know, pendingan investigation, it’s very hard to know. But the way it works in Egypt is really the official and

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