As Egpyt Attacks Press, teleSUR Staff in Cairo Detained, Threatened and Released.
by Juan Reardon, 10 February 2011.
Reporters from the Caracas-based teleSUR media outlet were detained and interrogated in Cairo on Wednesday as part of the Egyptian Government’s attempts to limit reporting on over two weeks of anti-government protests throughout the country. In the last 10 days of street demonstrations, over 150 incidents against both national and international media have been reported, according to the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC).
“We have had a very difficult day, today, in the capital of Egypt,” said teleSUR’s Rodrigo Hernández late Wednesday evening. Detained on their early morning arrival into Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Plaza, Hernández and his colleagues were forced to lay face-down on the pavement for several hours before being taken to a military barracks for questioning.
“We were then forced into an armored police vehicle, with armed personnel inside, and blindfolded,” reported Hernández. After roughly an hour en route, the journalists were taken to a military barracks and interrogated one by one for several hours, he explained.
Questions asked include: Why did they intend to cover the events of Tahrir Plaza? What do they think about everything that is happening? What type of media outlet is teleSUR?
According to Hernández, the interrogators went on to “threaten” the teleSUR crewmembers, saying that they “could spend several days imprisoned, could be deported” or that “something much worse could happen” if they continued their work in Egypt or if they were detained for a second time.
“We are safe now,” Hernández said from his hotel room near Tahrir Plaza, “but, of course, we share that same sense of insecurity that the great majority of journalists suffer in Egypt, something that the [Mubarak] regime has successfully achieved,” he concluded.
Since the beginning of mass protests against the U.S.-backed Mubarak government, dozens of local and foreign correspondents have been harassed, detained, and physically assaulted, according to teleSUR.
Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud was shot on January 28 as he attempted to film riot police as they fired gas canisters at demonstrators, this according to DemocracyNow! Mahmoud, a reporter for Egypt’s state-owned newspaper Al Ta’awun, died on February 4th.
The PEC on Tuesday called for an independent and full inquiry into the attacks, asking the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights to intervene.
Al Jazeera Attacked, teleSUR Speaks Out
In addition to attacks on individual journalists, the offices of Qatar-based Al Jazeera were set ablaze last Friday; days after the Egyptian government banned its broadcasts and rescinded its media credentials.
In solidarity with the pan-Arab media outlet, teleSUR on Saturday released an official statement denouncing the criminalization of its “sister station,” Al Jazeera.
“teleSUR assumes the shared commitment with Al Jazeera of defending the voice of historically silenced peoples and insists upon the respect for human rights, especially the right to personal liberty, opinions, freedom of expression, and access to information,” read teleSUR’s 5 February press release.
Launched in 2005, the New Television Station of the South (teleSUR) is a pan-Latin American television station dedicated to “forming critically-thinking, informed, and participatory citizens.” Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela provided both the staff and resources for teleSUR’s foundation.
In February 2006, teleSUR and Al Jazeera signed a cooperation agreement to exchange content, information broadcasting technologies and know-how.
teleSUR caught headlines worldwide when its reporters provided some of the only independent on-the-ground broadcasting during the 2009 military coup de’état in Honduras. The station’s journalists provided the first of many interviews with deposed President Manual Zelaya as well as thousands of images and reports from the popular demonstrations that ensued.
The station’s slogan, “Our North is the South,” refers to teleSUR’s focus on issues that most effect the people of Latin America and the global south.