CAIRO: The Egyptian government on Sunday forced Al Jazeera's Cairo offices to close and has suspended its correspondents' accreditations as the channel continues to cover nationwide protests.
Egypt plunged into chaos on Friday when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Some of them clashed with security forces, killing scores of people and injuring thousands more. Protests continued on Saturday and Sunday.
The government's decision to prevent Al Jazeera from reporting from Egypt was first announced on state-run Nile Television. It comes as the network is being praised around the world for its extensive coverage of events in Egypt.
"Packing our equipment. We've been kicked out of the office," said Al Jazeera correspondent Dan Nolan. "Government agents say they've been watching our coverage but also listening to our phone calls. Would this be those 'legitimate freedoms'?"
"My story from [a] Cairo morgue yesterday seems to have played a role in all of this," Nolan added, referring to an Al Jazeera TV report in which some victims could be seen inside a morgue. "We were just asked why we're [the] only network to show these victims?"
Sunday's crackdown on Al Jazeera is not the first attack on journalists in Egypt since the street protests began, forcing Mubarak to fire his Cabinet but so far refusing to resign himself. In recent days, several foreign journalists have been arrested and/or beaten by plain-clothed forces.
In response to the government's decision, Al Jazeera said it strongly denounced and condemned the closure of its bureau in Cairo. "Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists," a spokesman for the network said.
"In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people," the spokesman added. "Al Jazeera assures its audiences in Egypt and across the world that it will continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt."
Residents in some parts of Egypt said they were unable to get a signal to watch Al Jazeera. "Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt," the spokesman added.
As of Sunday afternoon, at least 150 people have been killed in protests since earlier this week. In addition, more than 4,000 people have been injured. The total number of casualties is believed to be higher.
(BNO NEWS )