Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Police Detain 3 Journalists from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Hours of detention
Tue, 29/12/2009

Jano Charbel

Al-Masry Al-Youm journalist Jano Charbel was detained by security forces last night as he was covering the pro-Gaza demonstrations. The following is his personal account from the darker side of reporting:

I arrived at the demo shortly before 9 pm, and took less than ten photos - in less than three minutes - before I was stopped. A plain-clothed state security officer asked me for my press card and national ID.

He then ordered me to accompany him, and I followed him into the Four Seasons hotel where he handed my identification to his superior officer who was seated in the lobby.

The superior officer, dressed in a beige suit and tie, asked me where my press card was. I pointed out to him that he was holding it and he said, “This is just a card with a photo. Where is the syndicate ID?”

Since you can only apply to the press syndicate if you are given a full-time contract by a national organization, I and hundreds of my fellow journalists work with the cards issued by our organizations. So I told him, "This is what I have got." He gave me a really angry look and signaled to his junior officer to take me away.

The junior officer led me to a dark blue micro-bus, and said, "Your colleagues are here." I looked inside and found Al-Masry journalists Ahmad Ragab and Mustafa Bahgat smiling. They said, “We saw you and tried to warn you, but you didn't notice.”

We were detained for just under three hours in the micro-bus which was primarily being used for making and distributing tea and coffee to the police officers. They had confiscated Ragab and Bahgat phones, but not mine. We received lots of phone calls from colleagues, family and friends. We spent our time talking, joking, and smoking cigarettes in the micro-bus; we'd all been arrested before, so it wasn't really a big deal.

There was a British-Egyptian female activist who was with us at first, but she was released within 45 minutes. Using a Vado camera I managed to quietly and jokingly interview Ragab and Bahgat about their experiences in the micro-bus. (hyperlink to MM)

At 11:15pm the superior officer returned and gave us back our press cards and IDs. He then told us to "leave immediately or else be subjected to arrest."

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