Six al-Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt

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Dubai, Jan 31 (PTI) Six foreign journalists of Qatar-based al-Jazeera news channel were today arrested in Egyptafter authorities shutdown the network that has providedround-the-clock coverage to the uprising against the 30-yearauthoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said that six ofits journalists have been detained from a hotel in Cairo afterauthorities ordered the closure of the network''s local officeyesterday.

The nationalities of the arrested al-Jazeera employeesare "Australian, Portuguese and British," according to localArab media reports.

The journalists are part of its English-languagechannel, a sister operation to the flagship Arabic service, itsaid. The news network called the Egyptian ban "an actdesigned to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by thenetwork and its journalists."

"In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptiansociety, it is imperative that voices from all sides beheard," said the statement from its headquarters in Qatar''scapital Doha.

"The closing of our bureau by the Egyptian governmentis aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptianpeople."

The Egyptian authorities announced yesterday throughthe state television that they are revoking the Al JazeeraNetwork''s licence to broadcast from the country, and will beshutting down its bureau office in Cairo, according to thechannel.

Egyptian state news agency MENA said Al Jazeera�sjournalists had been stripped of their accreditation and thenetwork�s licence had been withdrawn.

"The Information Minister ordered....suspension ofoperations of Al Jazeera, cancelling of its licences andwithdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today," astatement on the MENA website said yesterday.

Al Jazeera has been at the forefront of reporting onthe popular protests and riots that overthrew Tunisianpresident Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali and threaten to do the sameto Mubarak.

Before many others, the news channel flooded bulletinswith footage, streamed online and updated its Twitter,Facebook and blog sites.

The network has frequently been at odds withauthorities in the Middle East, previously facing bans orrestrictions in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

In December, Al Jazeera�s Kuwait offices were closedafter the state accused it of meddling in domestic affairs.

Stepping up the agitation against enmbattled Mubarak,anti-government protesters gave a call for a million people topour onto the streets of Cairo tomorrow to put up a massiveshow of strength to force the beleaguered President to leavethe country by Friday.

Upping the ante to topple Mubarak, a coalition ofopposition parties, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhoodalso served an ultimatum telling the powerful army to choosebetween "Egypt or Mubarak", indicating that a decisive stagemay be near as the death toll in the last six days of violencecrossed 150.

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