Foreign TV journalists under attack in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt, 4th February 2011:    The violent assaults on TV journalists in Egypt are forcing some to pull out of the country. Many have been harassed, punched and some nearly killed.

TV2's Rasmus Tantholdt  
Yesterday one of the worst attacks took place against TV2 Denmark’s correspondent Rasmus Tantholdt and cameraman, Anders Bach.

TV2’s managing editor, Hans Peter Blicher, told TVZ what happened: “They were coming by car from the south to Alexandria. There was a huge crowd of people who stopped their car who had the feeling they were reporters. The people were very angry and started banging on the car with sticks and knives and broke the windows, trying to pull our correspondent out of the car by his hair. He shouted to the driver, ‘Drive! Drive!’ “

“The driver started the car and some of the crowd were thrown off and it became a very violent situation. But what happened next was the worst thing because 100 metres ahead was a road block and the crowd became even more angry attacking the car with everything and totally destroyed it. The crew were in no doubt for a second that they were going to be killed. But then three military people came and began shooting in the air to clear the crowd. They then escorted our people to a hotel.”

Hans Peter added, “This is our correspondent who has been to places like Afghanistan, Iraq – he is very experienced. He said this was the worst thing he had ever experienced. He was sure they were going to be killed.”

The crew are now back home.

They were not the only TV2 journalists to be attacked. Correspondent Steffen Jensen was set upon yesterday by pro-Mubarak supporters with clubs while reporting live on the phone from Cairo. He said, "I refused to give my phone and my passport to them and some of them grabbed my camera and my backpack and started giving me beatings with fists and clubs."

RTSI's Gianluca Grossi
Another journalist who left Egypt yesterday is Gianluca Grossi, a journalist working for RTSI in Switzerland. He flew out of the country last night after being stopped by a crowd while in a taxi. He told TVZ, “I was harassed by a group of people who were apparently supporting the pro-Mubarak camp. Only the arrival of the army allowed me to continue safely. The army officer told me to hide my bag [containing TV gear] with a blanket because if they find out you’re a journalist, they’ll kill you.”

He said, “I think in Cairo there is a group of people who are hunting journalists. I consider the danger very high because of this. There is no safe place to go; even the hotels are not safe. I saw one Greek journalist coming back to the hotel with a big wound to his head. I saw another middle-aged, blonde, European journalist being taken away by people from the pro-Mubarak camp. I don’t know what happened to him. There is no police to turn to.”

Gianluca added, “I always follow my instinct and this time my instinct told me I had to leave. I spoke this morning with a Western diplomatic source and they told me that many journalists are on their way to the airport. Many times you have a problem as a journalist in a conflict area but you don’t feel the people want you out; in Cairo you feel they want you out.”

TRT journalist Metin Puran was also the victim of an attack yesterday. TRT’s Foreign Newsdesk editor, Burcu Altinyeleklioglu, told TVZ Metin was punched by a group of people he thought to be pro-Mubarak supporters. He was rescued by an army officer but only after the crowd “took his cellphones and camera, his wallet, his IDs, his money, everything.”

Burcu added, “He was shocked and frightened but he was on air just after the incident. He himself became the news.”

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