His Excellency President Hosni Mubarak
3 February 2011
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our grave concern at a series of attacks on journalists covering the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.
According to reports, government supporters have attacked a number of journalists – in particular foreign reporters – covering the unrest in Cairo. We are particularly concerned that the attacks appear to be part of systematic government-supported campaign to silence coverage of the disturbances.
Reports of violent attacks over the past two days include:
- Ahmed Bajano, an Al-Arabiya correspondent in Cairo, and his camera crew were beaten in Mustafa Mahmoud Square by men in plainclothes. Mr Bajano suffered a concussion and was taken to hospital. Two other Al-Arabiya journalists also reported being assaulted in separate incidents and the station’s Cairo office was attacked and its windows broken.
- Belgian journalist Maurice Sarfatti, Middle East correspondent for the Brussels-based Le Soir, Geneva-based LeTemps, and French newspaper La Voix du Nord, was beaten and arrested. He was taken to military barracks and accused of being a spy.
- Three France 24 journalists were detained while covering protests and were held for questioning by "military intelligence services".
- Police arrested four Israeli journalists for allegedly violating the curfew in Cairo and for entering the country on tourist visas.
- CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his crew were attacked by pro-government supporters, as were two unnamed Associated Press correspondents and Danish journalist Steffen Jensen. Icelandic journalist Jon Bjorgvinsson and his crew were also attacked and accused of being foreign spies.
- BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was handcuffed and blindfolded by security agents and detained for three hours.
- A group of men attacked the headquarters of the independent daily Al-Shorouk in Cairo. Two journalists were injured and equipment damaged.
We respectfully remind you that attacking and intimidating journalists clearly contravenes numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'
We call on you to take immediate action to ensure that all journalists are able to report on the unfolding events without fear of attack and intimidation. We ask you to take all necessary steps to ensure that your supporters fully respect the rights of journalists to observe and report on the unfolding events.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.