Video shows Egypt police arresting two journalists
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.
CAIRO — A leaked video of the arrest of two journalists offered a cinematic close-up on Monday of the new military-backed government’s crackdown on dissent: slow-moving footage of a hotel room full of telecommunications equipment set to the thumping, sinister score of the recent superhero movie “Thor: The Dark World.”
The video, broadcast Sunday night on a private channel that supports the government and circulated widely over the Internet since then, is the latest salvo in a propaganda campaign by the state-run and pro-military news media. The goal is to paint the arrested journalists — known here as “the Marriott Cell,” for the hotel they were arrested in — as part of a terrorist conspiracy.
Both journalists shown in the video are established correspondents who were working for the English language affiliate of Al-Jazeera, the Qatari-owned Pan-Arab news network. The two, Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian television producer who previously worked for CNN, and Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent who previously worked for the BBC, have been detained since their arrest on Dec. 29.
The video begins with a close-up of Fahmy’s frightened face as police officers walk in the door of the hotel suite he and Greste had used as a studio. The camera pans across laptop computers, television cameras, stage lights, other telecommunications gear and even the toilet. And the video lingers on the cover of a book by Fahmy about Egypt’s 2011 uprising, “Egypt Freedom Story.”
Al-Jazeera is virtually the only Arabic-language news organization still operating in Egypt that is critical of the military-backed government and supportive of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Since ousting President Mohammed Morsi of the Brotherhood from office last summer, the government has closed down the network’s bureaus and arrested several of its journalists. Others suspected of working for Al-Jazeera are often attacked in the streets by mobs of the government’s civilian supporters.
In a statement, Al-Jazeera said the broadcast could prejudice a potential trial, calling it “an attempt to demonize the journalists” and “the latest incident of incitement against the network.”
“Our crew were journalists doing their job,” said Salah Negm, the news director at Al-Jazeera’s English language channel.
Others called the juxtaposition of the ordinary telecommunications equipment with the melodramatic score darkly comic.
“The Ministry of Interior told us so and so, the Ministry of Health told us so and so,” Fahmy mimics, pretending to hold a microphone.
The two were among 20 Al-Jazeera journalists charged this week with broadcasting false reports of unrest to help the Brotherhood destabilize Egypt. Fahmy’s family says that he is being held at a prison known here as “The Scorpion,” where they say he is kept in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep and denied medical treatment for his injured shoulder.