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Journalists and Google Marketing Director Detained by Egyptian Authorities

Journalists and Google Marketing Director Detained by Egyptian Authorities

Sunday’s New York Times contains a harrowing account by two NYT reporters, Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulis, who were detained by Egyptian authorities for one day last week. Mekhennet is a German citizen of Arab origin and Kulis is American; also detained with them was their Egyptian driver, who is not a journalist and not involved in the demonstrations. Others have been detained as well, including Google Middle East Marketing Director Wael Ghonim, who has been held by Egyptian authorities since January 27.

 

Journalists Detained by Egyptian Authorities and the Secret Police 

30 journalists were detained and 26 assaulted over the period that Mekhennet and Kulis were held, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Further there were eight instances of equipment–cameras, laptops—being seized.

Journalists in Egypt have, as the New York Times says, ’a freer hand than many in the region’s police states, but the secret police [has] kept a close eye on both journalists and their sources.’ But ‘a campaign of intimidation against journalists and the Egyptians speaking to them became apparent’ as violence among the protests has escalated. 

Mekhennet and Kulis were detained by the Egyptian authorities on Thursday afternoon while driving into Cairo after reporting on the demonstrations in Alexandria. They were handed over to the Mukhabarat, the secret police, and interrogated. They spent the night in ‘a cold room, on hard orange plastic stools, under fluorescent lights.’

As Mekhennet and Kulis write, what they endured for one day is the ‘brutal maze where Egyptians are lost for months or even years.’

 

We saw a journalist with his head bandaged and others brought in with jackets thrown over their heads as they were led by armed men.

In the morning, we could hear the strained voice of a man with a French accent calling out in English: “Where am I? What is happening to me? Answer me. Answer me.”

This prompted us into action — pressing to be released with more urgency, and indeed fear, than before. A plainclothes officer who said his name was Marwan gestured to us. “Come to the door,” he said, “and look out.”

We saw more than 20 people, Westerners and Egyptians, blindfolded and handcuffed. The room had been empty when we arrived the evening before.

“We could be treating you a lot worse,” he said in a flat tone, the facts speaking for themselves. Marwan said Egyptians were being held in the thousands. During the night we heard them being beaten, screaming after every blow.

Told they would be released the next day, Mekhennet and Kulis started asking to be freed at 6am. A member of the secret police appeared about five hours later and ‘became visibly annoyed by [their] requests, complaining that thousands of Egyptians civilians were in detention.’ Their requests were met and their driver released too. There was one more interchange with an interrogator:

 

An interrogator appeared and asked our driver, “What did you do in Tahrir Square?” He said we weren’t there. The interrogator said to the driver, “So you’re a traitor to your country.”

In Arabic, Ms. Mekhennet, a German citizen with Arab roots, kept telling the questioner that we are journalists for The New York Times. “You came here to make this country look bad,” the interrogator said.

The interrogator’s words ring ironically, in light of this report of Mekhennet’s and Kulis’ detention.

 

Google Marketing Director Detained Since January 27

Not only journalists have been detained. Google Middle East Marketing Director Wael Ghonim has been detained since Thursday, January 27. According to a February 6 post on TechCrunch, Ghonim is to be released at 4pm on Monday, February 7:

 

Missing since Thursday the 27th, Ghonim is thought to have hosted the first Facebook page that organized the January 25th protests. He disappeared shortly after the following disconcerting tweet“Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.”

After his disappearance, Ghonim was chosen as symbolic spokesperson by an Egyptian opposition group as a tactic to speed up his release. Avideo of a man who may or may not have been Ghonim getting arrested by the police has also been making the rounds.

TechCrunch cites an unspecified ‘source on the ground’ in Egypt who says that ‘the government has switched tactics as of late, instead of a complete information blackout it is using government controlled TV and press to influence popular opinion.’

 

Egyptians’ Wariness About Suleiman and the US’s Role

The Guardian describes Egypt’s recently appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman as a ‘former spymaster turned vice president.’ Suleiman is Egypt’s former intelligence chief and many are said to be ‘wary of the apparent deal being cooked up between Washington and Suleiman, with European backing, for the old regime to oversee the transition to democracy.’ Suleiman is still seen as part of the ‘old system.’ The Guardian interviewed Amr Mamoud who has spent twelve days in Tahrir Square with his wife, Reem:

 

Mahmoud was among many pro-democracy demonstrators suspicious of US backing for Suleiman’s plan to control the transition. After all, Suleiman was head of the intelligence services that played a commanding role in suppressing political dissent and free speech.

He also served the US in co-operating with its rendition of alleged terrorists, some of whom were interrogated under torture on behalf of the Americans in Egyptian jails.

“Why does America want to work with this man?” asked Mahmoud. “He has not been good for Egypt. He has not been good for us. He has served Mubarak and he has served America. We do no trust him and if they have chosen him, then we do not trust America. We will stay here until we get what we want.”

Noting that there is ‘no particular anti-US sentiment in Tahrir Square,’ the Guardian reports ‘wariness’ about the US’s role.

Meanwhile, banks in Egypt have reopened after being closed for many days, so that people can get cash to buy food. The authorities have also called on people to return to their jobs. The government wants the stock market to reopen, after being closed for the past two weeks, but this plan was cancelled. It is estimated that the protests in Egypt have cost the economy more than $3 billion over the past two week, with some one million tourists having left the country and ‘little sign of them returning soon.’


To see more about the developments in Egypt, click here.

 

Most Recent Care2 coverage on the Egyptian Protests:

Egyptian Vice President Meets With Opposition Leaders and Offers Concessions

Women Demonstrators in Cairo: They Matter (VIDEO)

Egypt’s Ruling Party Resigns, Mubarak Stays on as President

Egyptian Officials Seek to Nudge Mubarak From Power

Day of Departure Rally in Egypt Peaceful, But Mubarak Vows to Stay

Egypt Government Cracks Down on Foreign Observers, Death Toll Rises

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Photo by RamyRaoof.

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31 comments

+ add your own
11:51AM PST on Feb 20, 2011

thanx and noted

2:34AM PST on Feb 15, 2011

thanks for the info

3:39AM PST on Feb 14, 2011

It is a massive risk that reporters etc. take to bring us the news! We don't appreciate the risks they take all over the world.

2:28AM PST on Feb 9, 2011

It is very precarious... so very complicated... But people in Tahrir shall liberate & be liberated( in Arabic Tahrir = Liberation)...people always overcome,at a high cost, but another different world will dawn..

4:14PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Thanks be to heaven that Mr. Ghomin was released!
I pray for the Egyptian people to keep up their strength in the fight for their democratic rights and freedom, without any outside interference.

9:38AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

If the egyptian people do not want Suleiman another person whom the egyptian people trust that he can take them forward should be chosen.

8:03AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Those of you who are Americans who are of European descent go back and read your history book even the biased ones and you will see that the American Revolution came about for the same reason that this one is happening. Oppressive government, excessive taxation and no say in the government.
Egypt is Egypt not a colony of the US or any other government and should have the right to be free and make their own decision as how their country should be run without our interference. Right or wrong it is their beliefs and the path that they walk that will decide what happens in that country. We have enough problems here in this country that need to be solved without running around telling others what they should do.

6:51AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Tony "when all we can teach in the west is genocide, the powers that be want you to beleive in al qaeda,there is no al qaeda only ABI and that is AMERICA ,BRITAIN, and ISRAEL and that is the real terrorist network,to put it more precisely it means MO6IA and that is MOSSAD, MI6 and the CIA combined and that is because 99 percent of all suicde bombings including the contrived water bomber the crotch bomber and the shoe bomber,and now because the world is waking up to this ploy of them trying to control us they are now starting to get desperate,so what comes next a fake alien invasion perhaps,".

Well said. I agree the real world threats to peace and democracy is the governments of Israel, America and Britain. They wil only rest once they have all the wealth of the world in their own pockets and will do anything for it; even to the extent of attacking their own people and blaming it on a Phantom- Al Qaeda. Osama bin Ladin is DEAD; and while alive was paid to pretend to be a 'Bogeyman" so that america and its croonies could invade and raid the oil rich middle east countries of its wealth. Why do you think there is no sign of osama bin laden, even though, afghanistan was attacked with the excuse of catching osama; 8 years later and there is still NO osama; but american interests have popped up throughout afghanistan with american troops dying to protect these american businesses of the elite few.

WAKE UP!!! people of the world and see the truth for what it really is.

6:49AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Tony "when all we can teach in the west is genocide, the powers that be want you to beleive in al qaeda,there is no al qaeda only ABI and that is AMERICA ,BRITAIN, and ISRAEL and that is the real terrorist network,to put it more precisely it means MO6IA and that is MOSSAD, MI6 and the CIA combined and that is because 99 percent of all suicde bombings including the contrived water bomber the crotch bomber and the shoe bomber,and now because the world is waking up to this ploy of them trying to control us they are now starting to get desperate,so what comes next a fake alien invasion perhaps,".

Well said. I agree the real world threats to peace and democracy is the governments of Israel, America and Britain. They wil only rest once they have all the wealth of the world in their own pockets and will do anything for it; even to the extent of attacking their own people and blaming it on a Phantom- Al Qaeda. Osama bin Ladin is DEAD; and while alive was paid to pretend to be a 'Bogeyman" so that america and its croonies could invade and raid the oil rich middle east countries of its wealth. Why do you think there is no sign of osama bin laden, even though, afghanistan was attacked with the excuse of catching osama; 8 years later and there is still NO osama; but american interests have popped up throughout afghanistan with american troops dying to protect these american businesses of the elite few.

WAKE UP!!! people of the world and see the truth for what it really is.

6:40AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Wael Ghonim is Google Marketing director. He was released yesterday. His interview to Dream TV compelled more people to came to Tahrir Square today.

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