Reporters reject conditional protection, army-style vests
YOUM7/Sami Waheeb
By NOURHAN MAGDI

CAIRO: A number of journalists have rejected an offer of conditional protection by the Interior Ministry, based on their physical presence on the security forces side, and have also rejected bulletproof vests that resemble army uniforms.

“Journalists should be allowed to move freely on the scene to fully observe the incident and reflect it outright to the readers,” said Mohamed Antar, the head of the field journalists at Al-Shorouq newspaper.

In televised statements Thursday, Assistant Interior Minister Ashraf Abdullah pledged to protect journalists, on the condition that they stand on the security forces’ side during protests.

Antar told The Cairo Post, Friday, “Although we will be more protected if we stand among the security forces during clashes, our coverage will not be fully objective.”

Hend Mohamed, a photojournalist for El-Wady newspaper, told The Cairo Post, “They want our coverage to be oriented towards their interests, and not to cover their violations, and this not objective coverage.”

She said that she stopped covering clashes after the latest violent incidents, adding, “We will still be targeted even more than before if we stand at the forces’ side.”

Like Mohamed, many journalists and photojournalists boycott covering clashes after violent incidents were launched against journalists. Among the most recent incidents was the injury of two journalists at Cairo University clashes on April 14, preceded by the death of the female journalist Mayada Ashraf in March, which sparked rage over the lack of protection for field reporters.

“The protection of journalists will be guaranteed when security forces stop targeting us,” continued Antar.

“Sometimes we do not reveal our identities as journalists while covering protests to keep ourselves protected, but the risk still follows photojournalists, as they are targeted for their cameras,” Antar said.

The Freedom for the Brave Campaign, a detainees rights advocacy group, said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Thursday, that the Interior Ministry’s official means that “if the journalists are injured or shot dead, it will be considered an accident,” and that “journalists will be subordinated to the forces during coverage.”

“Coverage of clashes will reflect the truth that the Interior Ministry wants to circulate, which contributes to false public awareness,” the statement continued.

Military vests to protect journalists

Pictures of the bulletproof vests provided to journalists by the government to protect them caused uproar on social media earlier this week, as the vests resemble army fatigues.

Political activist Rasha Azab said on her Twitter account @RashaPress, “Any journalist who will wear these vests should rather go and work for a military magazine… It would be a professional scandal if the syndicate approves them.”

Head of Egypt’s Press Syndicate Diaa Rashwan said April 23 that the Ministry of Defense has provided the syndicate with 50 bulletproof vests and 50 bulletproof helmets for field journalists.

“The choice of these vests is a very wrong decision, as I will be considered pro-military, instead of being objective and neutral,” commented Antar, saying that the syndicate has committed a big mistake by accepting these vests.

He added that wearing these vests will make them more vulnerable to be targeted. “There are certain vests for journalists, known internationally by their color and shape, and these are the best ones for reporters,” noted Antar.

“Why would I wear an army suit? I am not working for the army,” Antar said.

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