As Egyptian protests turned increasingly violent and a rupture of relations between Western governments, including the United States, and the Mubarak regime became more pronounced, Mubarak supporters turned on Western journalists covering the tumult. Among those assaulted was Anderson Cooper of CNN who said that pro-Mubarak supporters attacked him and his crew. "The crowd kept growing, kept throwing punches, kicks. ... Suddenly a young man would look at you and punch you in the face," he said on CNN's American Morning. Neither Anderson, nor any member of his crew, was seriously injured, CNN said. ABC's Christiane Amanpour said that "an angry mob" chased her and her crew into their car, "kicked in the car doors and broke our windshield as we drove away." Two Associated Press reporters were also attacked, and a Belgian correspondent, Maurice Sarfatti, said that he was punched by the Mubarak supporters, taken into custody by the military, and accused of espionage. Ahmed Bajano, a correspondent for Dubai-based al-Arabiya, and his crew were attacked by pro-Mubarak crowds in a Cairo square. And Danish TV reporter Steffen Jensen was attacked by Mubarak supporters with clubs while on the air. The club-wielding mobs were reportedly bused to the scene of the demonstrations by Mubarak loyalists. The attacks were denounced by New York-based the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation, and today a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs," Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the CPJ's Middle East coordinator, said in a statement. "The situation is frightening not only because our colleagues are suffering abuse but because when the press is kept from reporting, we lose an independent source of crucial information." In an apparent effort to discredit coverage of the events, the government-run television networks reported that the anti-Mubarak protests were instigated by foreign media. Vodafone claimed that it was forced to send unattributed text messages to its Egyptian mobile customers attacking the "traitors" involved in the protests. Meanwhile, without explanation, the Egyptian government began restoring Internet service throughout the country today (Thursday), resulting in a flood of messages by protesters posted on Facebook and Twitter. And, on her TheWrap.com blog, Sharon Waxman, who was a Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post before writing about Hollywood, observed that it wasn't the traditional news media that brought out the crowds in Tunisia and Egypt, but the online social media. Although reserving "a nod for the emir of Qatar, who brought the world al-Jazeera," Waxman writes "The anti-democratic impulses of authoritarian regimes are threatened by the free flow of communication and expression that social media can provide. ... The revolutions brought on by social media are just beginning."

03/02/2011