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Belgian journalist, others released, re-arrested

(IPI/IFEX) - 3 February 2011 - Egyptian authorities this morning released detained correspondent Serge Dumont of Belgium's Le Soir newspaper and three France24 journalists who were arrested last night, but later took the four back into custody, Le Soir's chief of information told the International Press Institute (IPI).

Jurek Kuczkiewicz said authorities re-arrested Dumont and the three unidentified French correspondents and transferred them to a unit other than the one which freed the four at midday. He added that brief telephone contacts with the journalists had been established and diplomats had been notified, but he said he believed the four remained in custody.

Meanwhile, Sweden's SVT television told IPI that the status of correspondent Bert Sundström remained unclear following his disappearance this afternoon, but a representative of Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail said that reporters Sonia Verma and Patrick Martin had been released after being taken into custody earlier today.

Dumont was initially detained yesterday after being violently attacked by men in plain-clothes while covering a midday demonstration in favour of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek in the central Cairo neighbourhood of Choubra. Dumont reportedly told Belgian Ambassador to Egypt M. Bruno Neve de Mevergnies by telephone that he had been taken to a military post and accused of "spying".

Sundström disappeared while covering events in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where anti-government protesters and supporters of President Hosni Mubarek have clashed. SVT editor Robert Wiström said on the broadcaster's website today that an Arabic voice answered Sundström's phone this afternoon and indicated that the reporter had been detained before the call was cut off.

Olov Carlsson, head of SVT's news division, told IPI the broadcaster had no further information on their correspondent's whereabouts, or who was responsible for the disappearance.

The Globe and Mail's foreign news editor, Stephen Northfield, said his paper's reporters had been released this afternoon after apparently being swept up with a group of other foreigners by members of the Egyptian military. Northfield said it was not clear that Verma and Martin had been targeted as journalists, and might have been taken into custody by authorities for their own protection.

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "We are appalled at what appears to be an orchestrated campaign of violence directed at journalists covering the crisis in Egypt. Reports that journalists are being systematically hunted down, brutally assaulted, arrested and abducted are deeply disturbing. This appears to be a ruthless campaign to silence the voices of the courageous reporters on the ground in Egypt who, at enormous peril, are seeking to bring vital news of momentous events to Egyptians and the world. We call on the Egyptian authorities and army to immediately intervene so that the deliberate targeting of journalists ceases. The world is watching."

Click here for IPI's information on the latest reported attacks on journalists in Egypt

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