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"Bloody Sunday" as security forces fire on protesters; journalist and blogger slain

At least 25 Christian protesters, including at least one journalist, were killed by army and government-media incited mob
At least 25 Christian protesters, including at least one journalist, were killed by army and government-media incited mob

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / REUTERS

The repercussions are still being felt after what has been called "Egypt's Bloody Sunday", when army forces and mobs in Cairo that were rallied by government TV stations killed at least 25 protesters, including one journalist and one blogger, report IFEX members. The members point to larger frustrations about insecurity in Egypt, with civil society calling for the transitional government to restore the rule of law and hand over power as the country heads to elections on 28 November.

The violence took place at a rally held in the Maspero area of Cairo by Coptic Christians who were protesting the recent burning of a church and the transitional government's poor response. Civilians were shot at and run over by military tanks that drove through the crowd of protesters on 9 October, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and others.

ANHRI, CIHRS and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) say that during the protests, government media outlets spread false news, including reporting that Christian demonstrators were killing soldiers with stones. The broadcasters then called on viewers to defend the military.

"A direct link can be traced between the outright incitement against demonstrators by state media and the events at Maspero - to say nothing of the subsequent sectarian clashes which took place between demonstrators and residents from the surrounding areas," says a joint statement signed by CIHRS, ANHRI and other rights groups. "Official state television threw professionalism to the wind," they noted.

According to a firsthand report from writer and Coptic protester Yasmine El-Rashidi, which was posted by Index on Censorship, Muslim mobs descended on the scene armed with stones, bludgeons and Molotov cocktails and also took part in the bloodshed.

Cameraman Wael Yunna (aka Wael Mikhail), who was covering the protests for Christian Dogma TV, was shot in the head, according to CPJ. Blogger and activist Mina Daniel was also among those killed, reports the International Press Institute (IPI).

On the day of the protests, security forces simultaneously descended on broadcasters Al-Hurra and 25 TV at 7pm. At 25 TV, they smashed doors and windows and searched the premises as well as frisked journalists for footage from the protests, a 25 TV presenter told ANHRI. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says staff at both locations were held at gunpoint.

While the stations' broadcasts were cut off until 1am, the frightening raids were captured live. The attack on Al-Hurrah can be viewed below.

Security forces also cut the power supply and phone and Internet communications of newspaper "Al-Shorouk", which was covering the protesters' deaths, report CPJ and RSF.

In its statement, ANHRI lambasted the transitional leadership, which is currently in charge of the army, as well as the emergency law it relies on. "The Military Council has to shorten the transitional phase and to quickly handover power to an elected civil authority as soon as possible, for all the policies of the Military Council have failed in this critical phase," ANHRI said.

Among a series of recommendations, EOHR also called on the government to draft a new law relating to demonstrations, which "guarantees citizens' right of peaceful assembly."

Meanwhile, another blogger on hunger strike for nearly 60 days is believed to be close to death, report RSF and IPI. Maikel Nabil Sanad's conviction in April, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for "insulting the army," was overturned on 12 October by a military appeal court. However, a retrial is currently being held, which he is boycotting, according to IPI. RSF joins Egyptian members in demanding Sanad's release, given that his only "crime" was to write a blog post saying the military was not on the side of the people, an opinion that now seems prophetic given the army's actions in recent months.

On another note of concern, especially given Sanad's ordeal, RSF reports that several army officers filed a complaint in a military court against blogger and activist Asmaa Mahfouz and activist Nour Ayman Nour in early October.


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