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February 4, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

In what today’s (Friday) New York Times described as “an apparently coordinated campaign that is intended to stifle the flow of news that could further undermine the government,” reporters — particularly TV reporters and their crews — covering the demonstrations in Egypt came under increasing physical attack by Egyptian security forces and supporters of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The attacks effectively prevented coverage of 100,000-strong anti-government demonstrations in Tahrir Square. Numerous television reporters told how they had been detained and how their equipment and recordings had been confiscated. U.S. broadcast networks and cable-TV news channels were forced to rely on grainy video taken with cell phones and Flip cameras. Fox News Channel reporter Greg Palkot and his producer Olaf Wiig were reportedly hospitalized after being badly beaten by protesters when they were forced to flee their car after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it. CBS correspondent Lara Logan described how she and her crew were not allowed to leave their hotel with camera equipment. “We can feel what dictatorship really means,” she said in her report. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was set upon — twice — by Mubarak supporters who threw punches at him and his crew. While Fox Business Channel’s Ashley Webster and a cameraman were covering the protests from a balcony, security forces burst into the room behind them and ordered them to shut off the camera. Cairo offices of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV network and Qatar’s al-Jazeera were stormed by the Mubarak mobs, who, wielding clubs and knives, attacked employees, forcing them to flee, smashed equipment and set fire to the offices. Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists told the New York Times that the level of physical violence against journalists has been unprecedented — exceeding anything that occurred under the regimes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The CPJ released a list of more than two dozen incidents of attacks on journalists in Egypt. While Egyptian authorities called accusations that they had mobilized the attackers a “fiction” ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, who herself came under attack on Thursday, said that the state news agencies have called the protests “a foreign conspiracy, led by international journalists” — resulting in the violence against the media. In one instance, a woman, her face obscured, appeared on state television, confessed that she had been trained as an anti-government provocateur by “Americans and Israelis” in Qatar, the headquarters of al-Jazeera. (At least one reporter for the state-run Nile TV, Shaheera Amin, quit on Thursday, saying that she was “not allowed to report what was happening in Tahrir Square.” While stopping short of accusing Mubarak and his cohorts of organizing the attacks, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said: “There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting. We condemn such actions.” Meanwhile, news executives at each of the U.S. broadcast networks maintained Thursday that drastic cutbacks to their budgets in recent years have had no effect on their ability to cover the events in Egypt. “When we have a big story, we ramp up to cover the story the way it needs to be covered. And then we go back to the level that makes sense for every day coverage,” ABC News senior vice president Kate O’Brian told Broadcasting & Cable magazine. CBS News and Sports chief Sean McManus also insisted that the cutbacks had not affected the network’s coverage. “When it becomes the story that it is, I think [all of the networks] have stepped up and done a remarkably good job.”