BBC makes formal complaint to Egyptian authorities following assaults on journalists

MUMBAI: UK pubcaster The BBC has made a formal complaint to Egyptian Minister of the Interior, Habib Al-Adly, following assaults by members of the Egyptian security services on four journalists, two of whom work for the BBC.

The assault was made in full view of uniformed Egyptian security service officers who did not intervene. The attack occurred a few days ago in the Egyptian capital Cairo. It followed the meeting of the General Assembly of the Journalists' Syndicate. The meeting was being covered by the BBC.

In the unprovoked incident, a car containing four journalists - including BBC staff journalists Dina Samak and Denna Gameel - was deliberately blocked by a taxi. Five men in civilian clothes left the taxi and surrounded the car. They were joined immediately by at least another 10 attackers who were waiting in the street.

The attackers broke the front windscreen and a side window while verbally abusing the occupants. Two of the party were then dragged from the car and subjected to an assault. The attack took place in full view of uniformed security service officers who did not intervene. One of the victims, journalist Karim Al Shaer, was badly beaten. He was subsequently taken away in a police car and is still in detention.

The journalists filed a complaint with the local police. A complaint has also been made by the Journalists' Syndicate to the Attorney General but, so far, there has been no response or indication that an investigation has been launched.

This incident follows another assault by a uniformed member of the security services on BBC journalist Mohamed Taha in November last year. In that case the BBC received a formal apology from the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK, Gehad Madi.

The BBC runs a major production centre in Cairo because of its eminent position in the Arab world as a diplomatic centre and cosmopolitan centre of culture and learning.

BBC World Service head Middle East, Africa jerry Timmins has called on the Interior Minister to investigate the incident and to give his assurance that the BBC can continue its legitimate business of journalism.

He writes, "Over the past decades the BBC has been made to feel welcome in Egypt and we truly value the presence and the relationships we have established in your country. Incidents like these recent attacks sit uncomfortably against this backdrop and I have to be concerned at the level of hostility some of our journalists have encountered recently.

"I would like your assurance that you will investigate this latest incident and that the BBC has your support in going about our legitimate business of journalism."

This incident comes in the same week as the detention by police of freelance journalist Larmine Chaim in The Gambia. Chaim, who contributes regularly to the BBC's programmes for Africa, is being held without charge in the Gambian capital of Banjul.

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