• 21:43
  • Friday ,03 January 2014

Egypt: Journalists in jail as authorities crack down




Thursday ,02 January 2014

Egypt: Journalists in jail as authorities crack down

Those euphoric scenes that beamed out of Tahrir Square into our homes three years ago as President Mubarak was forced to step down are something from a different age. Six months after the ousting of his successor President Morsi, Egypt is changing. Nowhere is this more evident in Cairo where three journalists working for the Al Jazeera English channel remain in custody after police swooped on their hotel on Sunday and arrested them. The journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, former BBC Correspondent Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed – were high-profile foreign figures. Their arrest has triggered an international campaign calling for their release.

It is compounded by reports that Mr Fahmy's health is deteriorating after he fractured his shoulders when the detainees were transported to Cairo's Qasr en-Nil police station for interrogation. Closing down comment The move has also compounded fears that Egypt's military-backed government is fast closing down space for international reporting that is critical of the Egyptian military. Bel Trew, a freelance journalist who lives in Cairo where she writes for The Times, told Channel 4 News that foreign journalists received an email this morning claiming that the arrests were due to a lack of media accreditation. But that runs counter to the charges faced by the trio in custody which include belonging to a terrorist group and harming the country's reputation abroad.

It is this lack of clarity of a country in flux that has made reporting in the area harder than than ever. "I have to be careful about the topics I'm discussing and try to be sensitive to how [Egyptians] feel," Ms Trew says. "I have to try and explain that I'm not here as a spy or an agent of the West." She adds: "It's very violent on the streets, there is a lot of hostility towards foreigners and also foreign correspondents due to the fact due to the fact that a lot of Egyptians and the government believe we are taking a pro Muslim Brotherhood line."

The distant memory of the Arab Spring The latest detentions raise to five the number of journalists affiliated with Al Jazeera who are now jailed in Cairo. 'I have to try and explain that I'm not here as a spy or an agent of the West.' Bel Trew It has also confirmed that those euphoric days of the Arab Spring are a distant memory. Last July the Egyptian people took to the streets again to demand the removal of their new President, Mohammed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. "There was a feeling of joy and unity over what the people wanted. It was people rising together pushing for a new idea of their country," Ms Trew says. "Now there are so many different shades of grey; the story is a lot more complicated."