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Media watchdogs decry Egypt attacks on reporters

Associated Press Modified: May 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm •  Published: May 8, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — Two media rights groups condemned the Egyptian army for assaulting and arresting journalists who were covering a recent violent crackdown on antimilitary protests in Cairo.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it recorded 32 attacks on journalists during clashes last Friday in the Egyptian. It said at least 20 reporters were assaulted or beaten and 11 injured. The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, urged Egypt's ruling military council to investigate allegations that two journalists were "viciously beaten up by soldiers."

More than 300 people, including reporters, were detained during Friday's violence, which broke out when thousands of protesters marched toward the Defense Ministry demanding the country's military rulers step down immediately. It was the largest security roundup following protests.

At least nine of the journalists who were arrested have been released, pending investigation by military prosecutors into allegations of attacking troops and disturbing public order. More than a dozen female protesters, and a similar number of students, have also been released pending investigation. They could all face military trials.

A military official said those who have been released will be called in for further questioning, explaining that the journalists had insufficient documents because they were not members of the press syndicate. He was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

The military took over from longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011. But its rule has been marred by periodic violence and angry protests over its management of the transition and continuation of many of Mubarak's repressive practices.

Journalists have often been the target of beating and harassment while covering the protests. Reporters Without Borders said in a report released earlier this month that the military is still using "the same old methods of censorship and intimidation" as the ousted regime.

In the May 4 protests, Belgian photojournalist Virginie Nguyen, who works for the local English online daily Egypt Independent, was injured during the protest when a rock hit her face. At the hospital for treatment, an army officer shouted at her and asked her to hand over her camera.

She told the newspaper in a video recording that she handed over her camera, but the officers still "decided to arrest me and the woman with me."

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