The global TV news network Al Jazeera, which broadcasts both in Arabic and English, has been excessively targeted by Hosni Mubarak forces in the last two weeks since demonstrations broke out across Egypt. Despite its journalists being arrested and threatened, it's offices set on fire and it's satellite system cut off, Al Jazeera's news coverage of the popular uprising has been unchallenged by other news outlets.
Ayman Mohyeldin, the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, was detained by Egyptian police on Sunday and was held for seven hours. Today, he spoke to Democracy Now! about his arrest and how his network is fighting to stay on the ground in Egypt and on air around the world.
"The Egyptian government is really targeting Al Jazeera. We are officially banned from working here on the ground," Mohyeldin says. "Our staff has been arrested. Our uplink facilities have been cut off. Our equipment has been confiscated. Our permits have been revoked. There's a huge public campaign of incitement against our staff, as well as our bureau. Our offices, even after we left, were torched. There's a much more concentrated effort by the government specifically targeting Al Jazeera. I think that is a great disservice, not only to the Egyptian population, but to viewers all around the world."
Mohyeldin was defiant and said that Al Jazeera refuses to remove its staff from Egypt. Rather, they have reorganized their operations in order to stay on air.
"We continue to report and continue to have staff that goes into Tahrir [square]. We're determined on continuing this story. We feel Al Jazeera is being targeted unfairly and unjustly," Mohyeldin says. "And despite that, we've taken great lengths to protect ourselves, to protect our staff. And we're going to do so as-so-far as we can physically continue to report on the ground."
"I think Al Jazeera Arabic and out Jazeera English have something important to offer. They're offering the viewers around the world a context that may sometimes be missing from Western and foreign media," Mohyeldin says. "More importantly, they're offering the viewers a view of this country that I think is very hard to get in an absence of less and less media. If they were it take Al Jazeera off the air and silence us completely, it would be a great disservice to humanity, and in particular, to information."
Mohyeldin described in detail what it was like being detained by the Egyptian military. "[The military] viewed so many of us as prisoners of war. Our hands were tied behind our back with cables. Our eyes were blindfolded."
While in jail, he says he witnessed rampant police abuse. "We saw the military slap detainees, we saw them kick detainees, we saw them punch them," Mohyeldin says. "One of the soldiers I was observing had with him a small taser gun." He said that journalists were treated differently than the others.