CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian police released early Thursday an Associated Press (News - Alert) Television News cameraman and his assistant who were arrested the previous day while filming clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo.
APTN's Haridi Hussein Haridi, 54, and his assistant Haitham Badry, 23, were taken into custody around 1 a.m. Wednesday during the biggest anti–government protests Egypt has seen in years.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said local and international media have been widely targeted in the police crackdown on protesters. The group condemned the violence, calling on authorities to release at least seven journalists who it said have been detained.
An AP photographer was also beaten by a policeman and injured while shooting the demonstrations.
CPJ also said Egyptian authorities shut down the websites of two independent Egyptian newspapers and blocked access to social media Internet sites. It said at least six journalists from one independent Egyptian daily alone have been beaten, including the managing editor of the paper's English–language edition.
Al–Masry Al–Youm's Lina Attalah told CPJ that four policemen pulled her by the hair and kicked her in the face and back.
"We call on Cairo to bring to an immediate end to all forms of violence against the media, release all detained journalists and lift online censorship," the New York–based CPJ said.
As the AP crew was arrested at the climax of the first day of unrest, Haridi telephoned the AP news bureau to say the two had been pushed into a police van and were being driven to an unknown location before his mobile phone was disconnected. Nearly 18 hours later, he telephoned a colleague to say they were in police custody but were not mistreated.
Both are accredited and were carrying press documents issued by Egyptian authorities. After their release, the two returned to their homes in Cairo.
Separately, AP photographer Nasser Gamil Nasser, 43, had his right cheekbone broken and will need surgery to repair the fractures. He said a policeman charged him while he was shooting protests late Tuesday and hurled a stone at his face. His camera was smashed.
Abdel Mohsen Salama, deputy head of Egypt's journalist's association, said eight journalists have been detained in the protests.
"The AP complies with the laws of every country in which it gathers news and expects its staff to be treated with professional respect. We call on the Egyptian authorities to uphold the right of journalists to report without fear of detention or violence and to immediately release the detained AP television crew" said AP Vice President Sandy MacIntyre, director of AP television's international news operations.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. was pressing the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to release the journalists.
Inspired by the popular uprising in Tunisia, Egyptians have turned out in several cities for two straight days in an outburst of political discontent with President Hosni Mubarak's rule, widespread poverty and unemployment.
In Cairo, the first day of protests culminated around 1 a.m. Wednesday, when a large police force fired tear gas and beat protesters to clear the central Tahrir Square, where Haridi and Badry were filming. The force moved in arresting people, chasing others into side–streets and filling the square with clouds of tear gas.