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Egypt: Journalists Arrested for Meeting with Muslim Brotherhood

Correspondents arrested on charges of meeting with the islamists; move signals a further breakdown in freedom of the press.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 12/30/2013, 11:53 AM

Arrest (Illustrative)
Arrest (Illustrative)
Thinkstock

Egyptian authorities arrested three Al-Jazeera journalists Sunday, alleging that they had met with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to BBC News

The three journalists form part of the new network's English-language staff, and have been identified as Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, the director of the network's TV station in Cairo; Peter Greste, an Australian and former BBC correspondent; and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, according to CNN

The Egyptian Interior Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page that cameras, recordings and other material had been seized from rooms at a hotel in Cairo. It accused the journalists of broadcasting "false news" that could be "damaging to national security."

Freedom of the press is often elusive in Egypt. Journalists not only face suppression the government, but also from the news outlets themselves. 

At least 22 reporters from the Egyptian branch of Al-Jazeera resigned in July, citing biased reporting of the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi; another correspondent was fired earlier this month for doubting the network's coverage of the Arafat poisoning study.

According to the New York Times, the latest arrests have been aimed at sending a message to the media, deterring them from reporting on the group or their protests against the current government. 

On Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted Egypt as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in 2013, along with Syria and Iraq. Six journalists were killed in Egypt this year - simply for doing their work, according to the organization. 

Last week, the Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization, sparking new tensions between the military and the Brotherhood's supporters. The government has been engaging in a wide-ranging crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters.

Earlier Sunday, Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, announced that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held by summer 2014.

The elections would be contingent on the approval of the new constitution, which would keep the military's hold on certain areas of civilian life. The Brotherhood rejected the constitution and announced a boycott of the referendum earlier this year.