Europeans urge Egypt to protect journalists
PARIS -- Sweden's prime minister on Friday led a chorus of European officials calling on Egyptian authorities to protect reporters covering pro-democracy demonstrations there, while a Swedish TV reporter was in serious condition after being stabbed in the back.
Speaking a day after the attack on reporter Bert Sundstrom of Swedish public broadcaster SVT, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt urged the Egyptian authorities to "respect the journalists."
Reporters are "the eyes and the ears of the world at the moment," Reinfeldt said at a European Union summit in Brussels.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media watchdog, said Thursday that it had recorded 24 detentions of journalists, 21 assaults and five cases in which equipment was detained over a 24-hour period. Among those detained have been correspondents for The New York Times, Washington Post and Al-Jazeera.
Foreign photographers reported attacks by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the focal point of increasingly violent mass demonstrations demanding the Egyptian leader step down after 30 years in power.
The exact circumstances of the assault on Sundstrom remain unclear. He disappeared from near his hotel on Thursday afternoon, SVT said. When an editor called Sundstrom's cell phone, a man answered in Arabic, saying the reporter was in the hands of the Egyptian government, the broadcaster said.
Sundstrom was in serious but stable condition at a Cairo hospital following surgery, it said. He also sustained head injuries in the attack, SVT said.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said she was "appalled" by reports about repeated attacks against international journalists.
"There must be a clear signal to the Egyptian authorities that they are responsible that the situation does not turn into anarchy, chaos and violence," she said Friday. "We have seen a pattern in the past week's dramatic developments in Egypt where freedom of expression has been deliberately suppressed. We can in no way accept this."
Denmark's TV2 channel on Thursday aired footage of an attack on veteran reporter Rasmus Tantholdt and his cameraman, Anders Brandt. The two were on their way to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria when they were stopped at a checkpoint and then chased by an angry mob of some 60 to 70 people wielding clubs. They sought shelter in a shop and are now safe in an Alexandria hotel, the station said.
In a statement, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie condemned "the unacceptable incidents that have compromised the security" of journalists from French media outlets, including TF1, France 2, BFM and France 24 television channels and Le Monde newspaper.
Some media outlets have declined to discuss incidents involving their staff out of fears for their safety, but late Thursday, France 24 issued a statement saying that three of its journalists who had been held for 24 hours had again been picked up by Egyptian military police, only hours after their release.
On its nightly newscast Thursday, France's leading broadcaster, TF1, said two of its reporters were being held for questioning.
Alliot-Marie said some 20 French journalists were holed up in a hotel in Cairo and were in constant contact with the French embassy there.
France's ambassador in the country has been instructed to intervene immediately in case of further problems involving French journalists, Alliot-Marie's statement warned.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denounced the "systematic targeting" of reporters covering the protests.
Two Fox News Channel journalists were severely beaten by a mob near Tahrir Square on Wednesday. Correspondent Greg Palkot and cameraman Olaf Wiig had retreated to a building, but someone threw a firebomb inside and the men were attacked as they rushed out, said Michael Clemente, Fox's senior vice president for news.
The Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini said its correspondent in Cairo was briefly hospitalized with a stab wound to the leg after being attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators in Tahrir Square. A Greek newspaper photographer was punched in the face.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)