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The War on the Media in Egypt

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Yesterday we had word of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his camera crew getting attacked and beaten by pro-Mubarak demonstrators in Egypt. Today, it seems increasingly clear that attacks on the media by Mubarak-supporting crowds, and harassment by the government itself, has quickly become widespread, if not systematic. Some of the troubling incidents:

* TIME reported earlier that CBS’s Lara Logan was detained by Egyptian authorities, a day after Logan reported on the government’s attempts to stifle reporting.

* TIME’s Andrew Lee Butters was detained by street thugs, and says that, while the government denies responsibility in the harassment of journalists, it is looking the other way or even abetting the attacks.

* A Fox News crew was attacked with a Molotov cocktail and beaten.

* ABC correspondent Brian Hartman was attacked and threatened with beheading, after This Week anchor was surrounded and interrogated by a mob.

The list goes on and on: The Committee to Protect Journalists has an extensive list of attacks, threats and detentions of journalists from The Washington Post, the New York Times, Al-Jazeera and much more.

Of course, Egyptian citizens and protesters have been suffering violence all week, and reporters working in hot zones know their job is dangerous. What’s disturbing, beyond the suddenness and the intensity of the attacks, is not simply that journalists are being targeted, but what the sudden, widespread targeting and hindering of foreign press suggests. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “I worry about what it is they’re planning that they don’t want us to see.”

Like cutting off Egypt from the Internet and cellphone service last week, these acts seem indicative of a government that is either extraordinarily inept at controlling the flow of information and protecting its international perception—or, at this point, is so desperate that it doesn’t care.

Either way, while the media’s coverage of the events have hardly been beyond criticism (see the Daily Show critique my colleague Steven James Snyder pointed out), all this is a reminder that being the world’s eyes and ears is still a very dangerous job, and an important one.

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