Photographer Is First Media Fatality in Egypt; Situation Remains Dangerous

Posted by on Monday February 7, 2011 | Photojournalism

A photographer for an Egyptian newspaper reportedly died last week of gunshot wounds sustained during the protests against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, as the protests seem to be losing steam, foreign photographers are reporting that the situation in Cairo remains tense–and dangerous.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday that Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud, a journalist working for the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, died of gunshot wounds inflicted January 28. Al-Ahram, another paper that owns Al-Ta’awun, reported that a police officer saw Mahmoud filming the clashes and ordered him to stop. He complied, according to Al-Ahram, but the police officer shot him anyway, hitting him in the eye. Seven eyewitnesses recorded the shooting on their mobile cameras, Al-Ahram reported.

Authorities refused to send an ambulance. Mahmoud’s colleagues reportedly took him to the hospital, where he lay in a coma for a week before dying.

CPJ said Mahmoud’s death was the first reported media fatality of the uprising in Egypt.

But numerous journalists were detained by authorities or physically attacked by Mubarak supporters last week on February 2 and 3 during what appeared to be government-orchestrated counter-demonstrations for Mubarak. The international community roundly criticized the Egyptian government, and accused it of targeting the press in order to shut down the flow of information about the protests.

CPJ has reported that attacks and detentions against the press continued into the weekend. It said Egyptian state-controlled broadcasts “are creating an atmosphere that is encouraging violence against the press” by accusing foreigners of a “hidden agenda” against the government.

Freelance photographer David Degner told PDN today that the rising anti-foreigner sentiment has created a “poisonous atmosphere,” especially in neighborhoods away from downtown, where many journalists are staying. His fear now, he says, is being dragged to a military checkpoint by angry citizens. That has already happened to some journalists, he says.

Alan Chin told PDN that he and photographer Moises Saman, who is in Cairo for The New York Times, both had their gear confiscated at customs when they arrived in Egypt. Chin is managing to shoot photos for BagNews with a point-and-shoot camera he bought in Cairo for $85. One advantage is that it allows him to keep a low profile, and he’s not at risk of having his expensive camera gear confiscated at an army checkpoint. “When they take your camera at a checkpoint, they’re stealing it,” he says. Chin is optimistic that he will be able to get his cameras back from customs officials, though.

He went on to say that the situation in general in Cairo “has been fairly mellow the last two days, but obviously there’s a sense of foreboding. So it’s unpredicatable what may happen at any time. But right now I would say it’s pretty calm.”

Dominic Nahr, who gave PDN a harrowing account of the chaos in Tahrir Square last week, also checked in via e-mail yesterday to say that the situation in Cairo remains dangerous.

Related: Photographers Beaten, Robbed as Pro-Mubarak Gangs Turn on Press

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