Photographers covering the ongoing protests in Cairo used a variety of means—cell phones, satellite phones and secretly sourced internet connections—to file their photos and stay in contact with their editors while the Egyptian government temporarily shut down internet access.
“Cell phones come in and out so I can check in with editors. The internet is largely out but we have a couple of sources of internet,” Chris Hondros, a Getty Images photographer, told PDN on Tuesday, the day before the government restored internet service throughout the country. Hondros wouldn’t say what his internet source was, fearing government action to shut it down. When cell phone service went down and his internet source was unavailable, he says, he used his satellite phone to file photos.
AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon says, “Cairo is our Middle East hub and enables us to file our material in all formats” despite the government shutdown of the internet. Lyon says he could not provide details for security reasons.
Photographers had been able to move around the country, though they have to navigate multiple checkpoints. Following clashes last week between protesters and police, the army has taken over policing, Hondros says. Lyon said many of the checkpoints were set up by neighborhood protection groups.
On Tuesday, January 25 Nasser Gamil Nasser, a Palestinian photographer based in Egypt with AP, suffered a shattered cheekbone when a police officer threw a rock at him from close range, according to Lyon. Lyon says Nasser underwent surgery, and is now recovering at home.
“The army has been back and forth in their reactions to photographers. Some have reacted badly but most are indifferent,” says Ron Haviv, a photographer with VII Photo who arrived in Cairo on Monday. Asked how the mood in Cairo compares to other incidents of civil unrest he’s covered, Haviv noted Tuesday, “Until the army stated it would not fire on the people it was reminiscent of several times [in scenes of civil unrest] when ambiguity was the danger.”
On Tuesday night, Hondros said the streets fet safe. “There’s a lot of looting and mischief, but not as much as you’d think given that police have left the streets altogether.” He contrasted the relative calm with the lawlessness that followed fall of Saddam Hussein and the disbanding of Iraq’s police. He says, “It reminds me of Pristina, Kosovo, after the Kosovars were finally free of Serb police. They took care of the city and policed themselves.”
The protesters have been eager to generate good publicity. Says Haviv, “Most everyone wants their picture taken and a chance to ask your opinion and for your nationality.” Hondros says he’s shown his US passport at army checkpoints, and when demonstrators ask where he’s from, Hondros tells them; “You would not do that in Iraq,” he says.
Today, internet was restored, the curfew eased, and supporters of Mubarek took to the streets. As of yesterday, protesters had brought in food as they prepared to camp in Cairo’s Tahir Square. On Tuesday night, Haviv told PDN, “Having just left Tahir Square where Mubarak announced a delayed stepping down process, it seems that people are even angrier now.”
Hondros reported on Tuesday, “It has all the hallmarks of a revolution.”
Photographers in Egypt report the situation is changing rapidly; PDN will provide updates as events warrant them.
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