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Journalists threatened and harmed in Egypt's unrest

Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted in celebration with the announcement that President Hosni Mubarak was stepping down and turning power over to the military. Demonstrators had occupied Tahrir Square, Cairo's central plaza, and had vowed to remain until Mubarak's ouster.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 9:00 PM

Journalists covering the chaos in Egypt have become part of the story as dozens of reporters have been harassed, threatened, physically assaulted and arrested since Wednesday in what at least one U.S. official suggested was a broad government effort to suppress coverage of the spreading violence.

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ABC News correspondent Brian Hartman reported Thursday that his car was stopped by a group of men at a checkpoint on his way from Cairo's airport to downtown. The car was driven to a compound, where the men threatened to behead him and three ABC colleagues, he reported via Twitter. The group escaped only after ABC cameraman Akram Abi-hanna, who is Lebanese, "appealed to the generous spirit of the Egyptian people, hugging and kissing an elder," Hartman wrote.

On Wednesday, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was punched about 10 times, apparently by government supporters, as he walked with his cameraman and producer into a clash between factions near Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"We realized there were people in the crowd who were determined to cause trouble. They decided to focus on us as a target of opportunity," said Cooper from Cairo in a phone interview, noting that he took "a couple of pretty good pops in the face."

Added Cooper: "I think anyone with a camera is a target in that square."

On Thursday, Cooper encountered trouble again, as a mob set upon his car and smashed a window. Neither he nor his fellow passengers were injured.

The assaults come amid 11 days of protests throughout Egypt aimed at toppling the nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The protests have become bloody in recent days as Mubarak's supporters have confronted those seeking his ouster.

There have been no reports of journalists being killed in Egypt's current unrest, but several have reportedly been injured. According to an accounting compiled by ABC News, journalists working for Fox News, CNN, ABC World News and CBS News, among others, have reported facing physical threats and violence.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attacks on journalists and human rights workers, calling them "unacceptable under any circumstances."

Several news organizations, including The Washington Post, said Thursday that some of their employees had been detained.

Post photographer Linda Davidson was hit by a flying rock while covering a demonstration Wednesday in Cairo, sustaining minor injuries to her scalp. Then on Thursday she was among four Post employees arrested by military police.

Davidson and Post Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel were held for several hours before being released; they were among a group of about two-dozen journalists who were arrested.


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