Egypt: Media Prevented From Covering Fraud During First Round of Parliamentary Elections

Egypt: Media Prevented From Covering Fraud During First Round of Parliamentary Elections

No one but the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) seems to dispute the fact that there was massive fraud during the first round of the parliamentary elections on 28 November. Many journalists were physically prevented from covering the widespread irregularities. Such incidents are unfortunately expected to recur during the second round on 5 December.

Reporters Without Borders has drawn up a non-exhaustive list of cases of abusive behaviour towards journalists by NDP members and supporters with the complicity of the police on 28 November.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter Noha Al-Hefnawi, Al-Shourouq photographer Alia Hamed and reporter Mohamed Abu Dheif were attacked by NDP supporters and police at 10:30 a.m as they took photos of a voting station in Hoda Sharaawi school in Dokki that had been closed just two hours after the opening of the polls.

A radio Horytna correspondent was prevented from entered a voting station in Ashraf school in Manial throughout the day. Two foreign journalists were allowed in.

A Radio Monte Carlo Dawliya correspondent was violently attacked by three women supporters of NDP candidate Tala’t El-Qawas at the Nubas voting station in Abdan. They took her camera, identity papers and press card. Her clothes were torn. Police looked on without intervening.

Yasmine Fathy, who works for the Al-Ahram English-language news website, was detained for half an hour while she was trying to cover the elections in the north Cairo district of Shubra.

Reporter Shaymaa Galal was trying to cover electoral fraud at a voting station in Dar Al-Bayda school in Hadayek El-Qobba when NDP supporters attacked her and took her mobile phone.

Al-Shourouq reporter Reham Al-Delay was harassed by employees of a company owned by an NDP candidate near the Esko club in the north Cairo district of Al-Sahel. She was forcibly taken to the candidate’s campaign headquarters and was detained there for an hour.

MAADI (south Cairo)

A correspondent of Al-Ahali (the opposition party Tajjamu’s weekly) was photographing NDP members distributing food in exchange for votes near a voting station in Maadi secondary school when they accosted her and tried to take her mobile phone and her camera’s memory card. She had previously been photographing NDP supporters taking down the posters of Tajjamu’ candidate Antonios Nabeel and replacing them with NDP posters. Despite having all the necessary accreditation, she was barred from the voting station in Al-Khabairy school and was forced to leave the area.

An Al-Akhbar journalist was prevented from taking any photos at the Maadi secondary school voting station, even outside, and was forced to leave the area. An ON TV Channel crew was forbidden from filming outside the same voting station and from interviewing people who had come to vote.

A reporter for the daily Al-Shourouq was denied access to all the voting stations in Dar As-Salam district (located between Maadi and Mare Girgis).

The Spanish news agency EFE’s correspondent, Marina Villen, tried to cover the elections at two voting stations, in Agouza and Imbaba, but she was not allowed inside. She was asked to produce an interior ministry authorization and was then told in a threatening manner to leave the area quickly.

Al-Masry Al-Youm photojournalist Rafaat Saudi was accosted by police when he tried to take photos of NDP supporters preventing voters from going to a voting station in Mohamed Naguib primary school in Imbaba.

Supporters of NDP candidate Rashwan Al-Zomor attacked Al-Youm As-Sabe reporter Mahmoud Abdul Rady near the Nahya voting station in Kirdassa. When he asked policemen to protect him, the police themselves beat him, stripped him half-naked, and took his camera and mobile phone.

Bassem Mortada of the English-language version of Al-Masry Al-Youm was taking photos of NDP supporters arriving together in a bus to vote in the town of Helwan when a police officer told him to stop. The policeman escorted him inside the polling station, took his camera and deleted the photos. Mortada was then questioned for about 20 minutes and, before being let go, was firmly told not to do any reporting in the neighbourhood for the rest of the day.

Freelance journalist Sarah Topol was inside a voting station in the village of Tanan when the seals were about to be placed on the ballot boxes. She was asked to leave and, when she refused, she was forcibly pushed to the exit. When she tried to call a hotline for reporting cases of electoral fraud, her mobile phone was snatched from her. She then left the area fearing that the situation would deteriorate.

Three journalists working for the London-based newspaper Akhbar Al-Arab, Mostafa Hossein, Walaa Morsey and Iman Mohamed, were denied entry to voting stations in Alexandria despite having accreditation.

Al-Shourouq correspondent Abdelrahman Youssef photographed Muslim Brotherhood candidate Sobhi Saleh being beaten and taken to hospital in Raml and photographed vote-buying outside the Bakos voting station, but was denied access to the Fallouja and Hassouna voting stations. A Reuters reporter was also denied access to these voting stations and was attacked. He was also prevented from taking photos of Sobhi Saleh being beaten.

Hana Abdul Izz of Al-Youm As-Sabe and several other journalists were attacked by NDP supporters near the Alexandria faculty of fine arts while taking photos of NDP members distributing food in return for votes for NDP candidate Abdelsalam Al-Mahjoub.

An Al-Joumouriya photojournalist was able to take photos inside the voting station in Sayed Darwish school, including photos of the governor casting his ballot, until clashes broke out between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters. He was then expelled.

Supporters of NDP candidate Mohamed Rashad Othman attacked Al-Masry Al-Youm’s Alexandria correspondent, Mohamed Al-Malhey, as he was photographing NDP vote-buying in Mina Al-Bassal. They tore most of his clothes off him and broke his glasses.

Jano Charbel, a reporter working for the English-language version of Al-Masry Al-Youm, was filming outside the El-Mahalla El-Kubra voting station when he was detained and questioned for 20 minutes and then told to leave the area.

Mohamed Abu Dahab, the Mahalla correspondent of, was accosted by police while taking photos outside a voting station at Shuhadaa Badr school.

After going to El-Hamoul and Al-Borollos to report on the race between NDP candidate Issam Abul Ghassam and Al-Karama candidate Hamdin Sabahi, Al-Youm As-Sabe correspondent Ahmed Said was trying to cover vote-rigging when he was attacked by supporters of NDP candidate Abdul Ghaffar near a voting station in the technical school for girls. His camera and mobile phone were taken and smashed and he was forcibly escorted to another location where he was released.

Four other journalists – Mohamed Omar of the German news agency DPA, Sayad Al-Toukhy and Mohamed Suleiman of Al-Karama, and Zohair Adeeb of Al-Masry Al-Youm – were prevented from covering the massive electoral fraud taking place in El-Hamoul. When they went to the police to complain about being denied access to voting stations in El-Hamoul, they found the head of the police station in the process of organizing the fraud.

The correspondent of the government TV station Nile News and the correspondent of Al-Hayat Channel TV were denied entry to a voting station in the village of Beshla (in the municipality of Atmida).

A radio Horytna correspondent who was covering the polling at the Al-Shuhadaa voting station was summoned and questioned by the local head of the department of national security. His camera and press card were confiscated.

NDP supporters attacked Al-Youm As-Sabe correspondent Zeinab Abdul Rahman outside the Tala voting station in front of policemen who made no attempt to intervene. They insulted her, hit her repeatedly, tore her clothes and took her camera.

Radio Horytna’s correspondent in Damietta tried repeatedly throughout the day to enter the main voting station without success. He was also forbidden from interviewing people who had come to vote.

Aya Al-Fiqqi, a freelancer who works for Al Jazeera Mubasher, was attacked by about 20 NDP supporters while trying to cover electoral fraud in the village of Meet El-Khouly (Al-Zarqa). They hit her repeatedly and threatened her with knives until NDP candidate Mohamed Labib El-Banna intervened. Police finally escorted her away from the NDP supporters, spitting on her and insulting her. Her camera, mobile phone and laptop were all smashed.

Yasmine Al-Geyoushy, who works for Al-Doustour, was attacked, insulted and injured while covering the elections in the town of Faraskour, accompanied by the activist Amr Hussein. She nonetheless managed to take photos showing electoral fraud and the local NDP candidate threatening voters with a gun and was able to post them online.

NDP supporters attacked and kidnapped a photojournalist working for Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mohamed Radwan, who was taking photos of electoral fraud inside and outside a voting station at Kilometre 13 school in Al-Qantara Al-Gharbiya. They released him an hour later.

An Al Jazeera crew was attacked while covering a protest outside the Security Directorate’s provincial headquarters by demonstrators calling for the elections to be cancelled. The Al Jazeera crew was not allowed into any voting stations in the governorate.

Al-Youm As-Sabe correspondent Abdulrahman Shahin sustained minor injuries when attacked by NDP supporters outside the Tal Al-Qalzam voting station in the district of Al-Arba’i. His mobile phone and camera were seized.

No journalists were able to enter voting stations or interview voters in the district of Al-Fawwal in Fayoum.

Adel Khashaba, the correspondent of the independent weekly Al-Fajr, was covering the vote count in Bandar Al-Fayoum, the capital of the governorate, when clashes broke out between NDP and opposition supporters. In the course of the ensuing police intervention, Khashaba was badly beaten by police officers and had to be hospitalized with injuries to the hands and legs.

Photojournalist Khairy Saad was accosted by NDP candidate Mohamed Mostafa Al-Koury while taking photos of electoral fraud.

A radio Horytna correspondent was physically attacked by NDP supporters in the town of Esna while taking photos of ballot boxes being stuffed. Police looked on without intervening.

Journalists were also prevented from monitoring the transfer of ballot boxes from the governorate’s various voting stations to the designated place for vote counting in the centre of the city of Luxor.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s website (Ikhwan Online) was meanwhile inaccessible for nearly 48 hours starting at 7 a.m. on 28 November.

One of the site’s representatives, Abdul Jalil Al-Sharnoubi, accused the government of getting Egypt’s main Internet service providers (TEDATA, ETISALAT and LINK DSL) to block the site. Vodofone apparently resisted pressure to follow suit. He said the blocking was organised by the Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC), which gets its orders from the cabinet.

Eight other websites were also censored:

The website blocking is particularly disturbing as the authorities, although they have been harassing bloggers for years, have not until now been systematically filtering online content. This new form of censorship has set a dangerous precedent for online free expression in the run-up to the second round of the elections on 5 December.

Local retransmission of the BBC’s Arabic-language service was also interrupted five times on election day. This was probably deliberate.