February 4th, 2014
August 25th, 2011
To protest the arrest and imprisonment of members of the Al Jazeera English staff in Cairo, journalists around the world are carrying out a social media campaign that asks: What if all journalists were muzzled? As part of the protest, journalists are posting self-portraits on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook showing themselves with their mouths gagged and taped. Some hold signs demanding the release of the Al Jazeera journalists. They’re posting the images with the hashtag #FreeAJstaff.
On December 29, Egyptian authorities raided the Cairo office of Al Jazeera and arrested four employees. Last week, the government announced it was charging 20 journalists affiliated with the network, including five foreigners, with inciting terrorism and being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling party that was ousted from power by the Egyptian military in July. Journalists have been repeatedly attacked since the military took power, according to human rights and press freedom groups.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, other human rights organizations and press freedom groups have called for the immediate dismissal of the charges.
Today CNN International Correspondent Christian Amanpour held a #FreeAJStaff sign on the air. Journalists in Nairobi have staged a protest outside the Egyptian embassy to demand the release of imprisoned Al Jazeera staffers. Among those who have been detained since December is the Nairobi-based, Australian-born journalist Peter Greste, the East Africa correspondent for Al Jazeera.
Zuma Press photographer Narcisco Contreras of Mexico and freelance photographer Showkat Shafi of India were beaten by police and government forces, then arrested while covering a violent street protest in Srinigar, Kashmir on August 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.
Shafi, who has shot for Al Jazeera online and Reuters, reported that he and Contreras were covering a clash between youth protesting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir when police and soldiers charged the crowd, beating protesters and the photographers. “We were covering the protests, standing on the side of the demonstrators, when the police charged the protesters … we were verbally abused and beaten with bamboo sticks and batons,” he told Al Jazeera.
Contreras said he tried to take shelter in a tailor’s shop. “The soldiers descended there and started beating everyone, including me.”
The photographers were then taken to a police station, along with protesters; according to the photographers and eyewitnesses, they were held for hours. The two have reported that they were beaten while in police custody. Contreras told Al Jazeera, “I repeatedly told them I’m a foreign journalist, but they continued beating me as if I was some criminal,” he said. A police officer told Al Jazeera that the two photographers were released after they showed their press credentials, and denied that they were beaten.
Responding to reports that the photographers had been beaten, Farooq Khan, president of the Kashmir Press Photographers Association, told Al Jazeera, “Let’s remember that incidents like these have become a routine here.”