Al Jazeera accuses Egypt authorities of intimidation campaign

DOHA Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:29am EDT

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi (back) clash with anti-Mursi protesters, along Qasr Al Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo July 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi (back) clash with anti-Mursi protesters, along Qasr Al Nil bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo July 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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DOHA (Reuters) - The pan-Arab Al Jazeera television network accused Egyptian authorities on Tuesday of a sustained campaign of intimidation against its staff, rejecting charges of pro-Islamist bias in its reporting on the crisis in Egypt.

Hours after the Egyptian military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3, security forces raided the Cairo offices of Al Jazeera's Egyptian news channel, which military sources accused at the time of broadcasting "incitement".

Based in Qatar, a Gulf Arab state viewed as sympathetic to Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera had been criticized by many Egyptians for its perceived bias in covering their country.

Al Jazeera said authorities had been "tightening its grip on the freedom of al Jazeera's staff" for the past three weeks.

Egyptian authorities were not immediately available for comment in Cairo, where it was a national holiday.

Al Jazeera said in a statement the Egyptian authorities had filed a law suit saying it had stolen two transmission feeds from state television and used them to broadcast protests at a square where Mursi supporters have been camped since his ouster.

The television station, which rose to prominence by its lively coverage of a region once dominated by state media, also said its staff were being prevented from covering official news conferences and that they were receiving numerous threats.

"There is no truth to what is being published in this campaign about Al Jazeera's bias towards one side in the current political equation. These are accusations with no proof," the statement said.

Ghassan Abu Hussein, an Al Jazeera spokesman, said: "Despite the challenges it is facing in Egypt, Al Jazeera affirms its commitment to its editorial policy that is based on the highest levels of professional measures and in which all integrity, objectivity and balance are obvious in its coverage."

He said the network was worried about the lives, safety and freedom of its staff due to the Egyptian "campaign" against it.

Qatar, which gave Egypt $7 billion in aid during the Muslim Brotherhood's year in power, had apparently seen support for the movement as a way to project its influence in the Middle East.

Mursi's downfall marked a recalibration of power among Gulf Arab states which, with the notable exception of Qatar, had feared the Brotherhood would use its domination of Egypt to push a radical, Islamist agenda in their own backyard.

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Alistair Lyon)

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