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Rights groups decry Egyptian media crackdown

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm •  Published: July 4, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities shut down four Islamist TV stations, banned the Muslim Brotherhood's newspaper and raided the office of Al-Jazeera's Egypt affiliate in crackdown on media considered sympathetic to ousted President Mohammed Morsi, bringing an outcry Thursday from rights groups.

Rights groups said the moves appeared to be an attempt to intimidate pro-Morsi media and shut off their viewpoints.

Among the shuttered stations was the Misr25 channel, run by the Brotherhood. It went off the air Wednesday night just as it was airing pro-Morsi protesters chanting "Down with military rule" after Egypt's military chief announced that Morsi had been removed.

The military's move came after four days of massive anti-Morsi protests demanding the country's first freely elected president step down.

In a statement, the Brotherhood said the shutdowns were a return to the "repressive" policies of Egypt's "dark ... ages."

The London-based Amnesty International called the shutdowns a "blow to freedom of expression."

A security official said the stations were shut down over suspicions of incitement, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. He did not elaborate.

Notably, no Egyptian stations are currently airing live footage from the main pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, where thousands have been holding a sit-in since Friday.

Also targeted was Al-Jazeera Live Egypt, or Mubasher Misr, an affiliate of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network. Late Wednesday night, police raided the station's offices, detaining 28 staffers, Al-Jazeera said in a statement Thursday. All have since been released, except the managing director and the broadcast engineer, it said.

The station broadcasts from Qatar, so its signals were not taken off the air, but it has stopped airing live events and its office in Cairo remained shut Thursday. Al-Jazeera said Associated Press Television News was ordered to deny Al-Jazeera channels access to their live services. A local media service company, Cairo News Company, has also been told to withhold access to broadcast equipment.

The Associated Press strongly protested the order to police and government officials. It said it followed the directive because it is bound by local law.

"Our longstanding position is that we cover the news for all of our clients. What is happening in Egypt is a fluid situation, and we are working to satisfy the needs of all of them," Erin Madigan, the news cooperative's senior media relations manager, said in a statement.

A video posted on YouTube recorded the moment security agents entered the studio as it was broadcasting live from Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands were celebrating Morsi's ouster. An agent can be heard in the background saying: "Please come with us" as the guests and staff asked what was going on.

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