01 July, 2009

Police repression of journalists in Tanta

Joseph Mayton reports on police violence and harrasment against journalists who tried to cover the Tanta Flax & Oil Co. strike: "This is when they started pushing me harder and harder back from the gate. I felt a punch land on my side, but thought little of it as I continued to stand my ground. Finally, a uniformed officer interceded and began talking to me. He was cordial, introducing himself as Ibrahim (24-years-old and straight of the academy). There was no going any further he said and promised to go and talk to the state security chief present. With my six or so-man escort, we made it back to the large, obese man sitting and talking to the American writer who had accompanied on the trip. I said that I was going to walk on the 'public street' and look inside the factory to see what was going on and then I would leave. Every step I would take was followed by at least two, often three or four, men jumping front, fists clenched and ready to pounce. I said that I had a job to do and that I must look into the factory. One of the men said that if I tried again that I would be arrested and driven to the Tanta police station. He looked serious." Read it all.

A clear example of how the strict limits on labour activism (as well as freedom of the press) in Egypt is still in place. The union of textile workers apparently got a green light to support the strike in Tanta, as a token evidence that such actions are tolerated in Egypt. But security agencies still wants to restrict media access to the workers and isolate them in order to break their morale as well as preventing industrial action from spreading.

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