It’s not exactly safe to be a journalist in Egypt right now. CNN’s Anderson Cooper survived the highest-profile attack so far, but he’s far from the only reporter to face physical abuse while covering the 10 days of unrest in Egypt.
Fox News foreign correspondent Greg Palkot and producer Olaf Wiig were badly beaten. Their colleague John Roberts described it thusly: “They were forced to leave their position when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it, a large fire erupted. They were forced to flee. They ran out and ran right into the pro Mubarak crowd and were severely beaten and had to be taken to the hospital.”
CNN reporter Lisa Desjardins earlier on Thursday tweeted: “Wash. Post, NY Times, Canada’s Globe & Mail reporters arrested; mobs clashed w/ CNN IBN, NPR, Time.”
The Washington Post said its Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel and photographer Linda Davidson were among two dozen journalists arrested by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Al-Jazeera said that three of its journalists were detained by security forces and another was reported missing. Kathimerini, a Greek daily newspaper, said its correspondent in Cairo was hospitalized with a stab wound to the leg after being attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators in central Tahrir Square. These are just some of the attacks on journalists, not to mention how many more had their equipment stolen or broken. All in the job.
But the most incredible story so far comes from ABC News reporter and producer Brian Hartman. He sent out this ominous tweet on Thursday:
Now safe, ABC News told the tale of its crew: Hartman, cameraman Akram Abi-hanna and two other ABC News employees “were surrounded on a crowded road that leads from Cairo’s airport to the city’s downtown area,” which the report notes had been safe and secure until today.
Hartman said the two-car convoy was stopped at one of the many makeshift checkpoints that have sprung up around Cairo, most of them created by neighborhood groups to protect themselves from looters.
Their drivers were forced into the back seats and one man tried to snatch a camera from the car, but it was grabbed back.
The two vehicles were quickly engulfed by men who poured out of the alley. “It gradually escalated, the tension and anger in their voice…. It was pretty clear we were in a threatening situation. People were making gestures and putting their fingers under my throat” and making a slitting motion, he said.
“A man in police uniform came up to me and said, ‘So help me God…. I am going to cut off your head,’” Hartman recalled.
One man was yelling, “Cut their necks now, cut their necks now,” and another pointed an imaginary machine gun at Hartman and made shooting noises.
So how did the crew escape? “Hartman says it was only through the appeal of Abi-hanna, who is Lebanese and a veteran ABC cameraman, that they were saved from being killed or severely beaten.”
Abi-hanna, Hartman says, “lunged forward and gave a great big bear hug” to a man who appeared to be an elder of the neighborhood. “He gave him a kiss on each cheek and told the man referring to me, ‘He is my guest. He is your guest in this country. Egyptian people are better than this.” Hartman said the cameraman appealed to the “renowned generosity of the Egyptian people.”
Another harrowing tale from brave men and women trying to bring the world the most important story out there. While the rest of us try to think of snarky headlines and witty rejoinders, the journalists in Egypt now are true heroes and messengers of peace and prosperity. Stay safe.