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'We've Never Seen in Egypt's History This Many Attacks Against Journalists'

Two journalists have now been confirmed killed in clashes that erupted last night as the Egyptian military began clearing sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. Mick Deane, a 15-year veteran cameraman for Sky News, and Habiba Abd El Aziz, a 26-year-old Emirati journalist for the publication Xpress, were both killed by gunfire.

Other journalists in Cairo have been wounded or detained by the military. Erin Cunningham, Middle East editor for GlobalPost, has compiled a series of their tweets, including:

 

 

Press intimidation is hardly new in Egypt -- it was a staple of the Mubarak regime, and it continued during Egypt's military-led transition, under the Morsy government, and now under the military-backed government of President Adly Mansour, which came to power on July 3. But Sherif Mansour, program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the Committee to Protect Journalists, says it's getting worse.

"We haven't seen in Egypt's history this many attacks against journalists," he told Foreign Policy by phone this morning. "Not even under Mubarak." Journalists are "absolutely" being targeted, he said. "This has been systematic."

Efforts to silence journalists have taken different forms over the past year, Mansour noted. "Morsy supporters and allies" filed legal injunctions against journalists to stop reporting against the government, and CPJ "documented at least 78 cases of assault during the year of Morsy's tenure." Military leaders have taken a different tack, for the most part -- on the day of the coup, they blocked access to parts of an enclave of television studios outside of Cairo and shut down some stations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood government, five of which remain shuttered today, a month and a half later. Journalists have also reportedly being harassed while visiting the protest encampment that was attacked on Wednesday. A CPJ report, released on Tuesday, detailed several accounts, including one in which an editor for an online news site was briefly kidnapped and "[taken] in a car to Nahda Square, where assailants beat him, photographed him naked, and threatened to publish the photographs."

Last December, Al-Hosseiny Abou Deif, a reporter for the Egyptian paper El-Fagr, was shot and killed outside the presidential palace in Cairo during a demonstration. An investigation by CPJ has led Mansour to believe that Abou Deif was assassinated.

"Journalists are paying a price for doing their work," Mansour told FP. "It is vital that the government steps up and ... allows journalists the rights and protection to do their work."

With what appears to be the deliberate, targeted harassment of journalists in Cairo today, that seems increasingly unlikely.

MOSAAB EL-SHAMY/AFP/Getty Images

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ElBaradei Resigns Over Crackdown, but His Old Allies Now Love the Egyptian Police

CAIRO -- The political fallout from Wednesday's bloodshed in Egypt is gathering pace -- and it's providing a revealing glimpse into the true convictions of the major figures on the non-Islamist side of the country's ideological spectrum.

Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as vice president today in protest of the government's decision to violently disperse sit-ins by backers of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. ElBaradei had previously threatened to resign if the security forces initiated such a wide-ranging crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and had reportedly feuded with army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over the issue.

In a resignation letter sent to President Adly Mansour, ElBaradei lamented that the beneficiaries of the crackdown would be "the advocates of violence and terrorism and the most extreme groups." He argued that there were peaceful ways to end the confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood, but that reconciliation efforts were abandoned too quickly. "It has become difficult for me to continue to bear the responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear," he wrote. "I cannot bear the responsibility for a single drop of blood in front of God."

Meanwhile, a statement released Wednesday by the National Salvation Front -- an umbrella group of anti-Brotherhood parties that ElBaradei used to lead -- could not be more different. "Today, Egypt lifted her head high," it began, declaring the clearing of the sit-in "not only a victory against all political forces trafficking in the name of religion in Egypt and the region, but also on the conspiracies of some countries that tried hard to support the rule of the Office of the [Muslim Brotherhood] Supreme Guide."

In what may be a broadside directed at ElBaradei, the statement went on to attack a "conspiracy" to offer the Brotherhood a compromise after Morsy's removal, which would have "return[ed] the organization's money and [let] it continue its activity." However, those efforts were dashed by the "firm leadership of the armed forces and the collective will of the people," which insisted on breaking up the sit-ins.

Before the military takeover on July 3, these forces were all united in their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. But with the Islamist movement forcibly removed from political life, their very real disagreements are about to come to the fore once again. 

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GettyImages