A journalist has died as a result of gunshot wounds in Cairo.
His “crime”? Taking pictures from his balcony.
This matters to me for several reasons. First off, it is reported by Al Jazeera and Fox News that he was killed by a sniper from an elevated position in a nearby building. Governments have snipers, not street protestors. He was shot a few days ago (during the well coordinated attack on the protestors) when all indications are that it was a government sponsored attack using the police forces. Police are not supposed to murder citizens.
Personally, it matters in that I’ve wanted to go to Egypt for some time to tour the various antiquities. I have a significant interest in them and it would be a great trip for me. I’ve mostly not gone due to insufficient cash and a spouse who was a bit afraid (given that a couple of busses of tourists had been blow up or shot up.. I’ve forgotten which). But the fact is that, from time to time, I’ve imagined myself in a hotel in Cairo. Looking out over the city. I have something of a camera fetish. Because of this, I’ve got a lot of camera equipment, including a modestly large telephoto lens and a Nikon to put it on. It almost looks “Pro”… So were I in Cairo right now, I’d be on my balcony taking pictures. Just like Ahmad had been doing…
This, as they say, is an “issue” for me.
The other major point is that this young man was just being a journalist. Like all the other journalists there, simply letting us know what is happening. Fox News had a cameraman and reporter beaten. Al Jazeera has had their Cairo office ransacked, burnt, and closed. Other reporters have been arrested, equipment stolen (“impounded” too), and press credentials confiscated. Mubarak and his thugs are trying to blind and deafen us as these folks are our eyes and ears in Egypt.
Some Technical Issues
But it has not worked. (Indeed, it can not work. With every cell phone a camera, you can slow when the video comes out, but not stop it.) Part of the problem is technical. I now have 3 digital still cameras. I usually take all 3 with me on a ‘serious’ photo tour (and I’m an amature). One fits in my pocket. One is a fully integrated “superzoom”. Neither is much bigger than a grapefruit. My Nikon is a bit larger, and with a full set of lenses fits in a bag about the size of a medium purse or small diaper bag. ALL of them take video.
The Fujifilm (superzoom) has a pretty good zoom lens on it and will do up to 2 hours of video. If I were to have one broken or taken ‘on the street’, the other would be waiting back at the hotel. If all three were taken, even my cell phone takes decent video. The days when you could block video recording by taking the $20,000 camera that was the size of a suitcase and impounding it are long gone. Worse case, the journalist goes to ANY store that sells ANY cameras, video or still, and picks up another video capable device for about $100.
Shutting down the internet can not work. As noted in another posting, there are ways to bypass the shutdowns. But even if perfect, that just delays, but does not stop, the process. My camera can put 2 hours of HDTV Video on an SD card. I can get “mini-SD” and the smaller one… Micro-SD, adapters. That makes the “chip” about the size of a dime or a fingernail. Those WILL be taken out of the country, especially with 1000 tourists all trying to leave with vacation photos… So we’ve got about a 1 day lag, at most, if folks chose to drive it out to the next country instead of fly… but Fox was able to fly their injured reporters out “same day” they were out of the doctors office.
This is a New Video Age. One where every person is a walking talking video recorder and reporter. One where even a device 1/2 the size of a pack of cigarettes is an HDTV quality recorder. One where an iPod music player can smuggle out a TV show and cell phone can email it globally.
Mr. Mubarak: It is simply not possible to “control” the media nor to limit reporting.
You can, however, reduce the video quality a little, cause the press coverage to turn 100% against you, and be seen as an antiquated buffoon and thug world wide.
Al Jazeera has responded by announcing that folks on the streets of Cairo can submit their video to the Al Jazeera web site at:
and tonight announced that they had many submissions coming in. They then showed video from inside the protesters group “on the ground” of the event…
What the raid on their offices, the arrest of their crew, the confiscation of their cameras, and the burning of their facilities has done is pretty simple. It has turned one professional crew dedicated to honest journalism into 10,000 camera crews with an agenda.
That last point is something most folks could figure out on their own. What I found interesting was that Ahmad worked for a “predominantly State Owned” news organization. Was he a victim of “friendly fire”? IFF the shooter was, in fact, a government instigated sniper sent out to shoot journalists; then he shot one of his own. A reporter for the government media.
It’s not often you are going to get Fox News, CNN, Al Jazeera, and The Huffington Post all on the same side of an issue… and it’s not that often I’ll ever quote Huffington. But these are strange times. From a comment in their article:
“Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud, a journalist working for the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, published by the state-owned Al-Ahram Foundation, died today from gunshot wounds sustained on January 28, Al-Jazeera and the semi-official Al-Ahram reported today. Mahmoud was shot by what the newspaper described as sniper fire while filming confrontations between security forces and demonstrators in central Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini area, which is adjacent to Tahrir Square. The death is the first reported media fatality during the uprising.”
Looking up the foundation gave:
Ownership and government influence
Al-Ahram is owned by the Al-Ahram Foundation and is one of the largest circulating newspapers in the world. The Egyptian government owns a controlling share of the stocks of the paper and appoints the editors. As appointees of the state, little censorship is exercised over them; it is understood that they are loyal to the state. Al-Ahram has largely ignored and trivialized the opposition parties to the ruling National Democratic Party and has not published much direct criticism of the Mubarak government.
The Anti-Defamation League, in a review of Arab newspapers in 2005, writes that al-Ahram “is given substantial leeway” by the government so long as they avoid “certain ‘taboos’.” Reporters Without Borders, in their 2005 report on press freedom in Egypt, reported that editorials in many newspapers, including al-Ahram, have become increasingly critical of the National Democratic Party’s control of the government and the corruption of the Mubarak regime. In an interview with Reporters Without Borders, Abdel Halim Qandil, editor of the weekly magazine Al-Arabi, said that the government interferes with independent operation of al-Ahram by controlling the printing presses and appointing the editors.
CAIRO — An Egyptian reporter who was shot during clashes a week ago died of his wounds Friday, his employer said, in the first reported death of a journalist in the chaos surrounding Egypt’s anti-government protests.
Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, 36, was taking photographs of fighting between protesters and security forces from the balcony of his home when he was shot Jan. 28, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said on its website.
Mahmoud worked for Al-Taawun, a newspaper put out by the Al-Ahram publishing house. He lived near central Tahrir Square, the focal point of protest rallies as well as clashes this week between large crowds of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera said its offices in Cairo were set ablaze, along with the equipment inside it.
Mubarak supporters assaulted dozens of correspondents with virtual impunity in central Cairo this week with little intervention from nearby military units.
It said the Ministry of Information had worked with authorities to speed the release of those journalists who were detained.
Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. government continues to receive disturbing reports about what he called a “very systematic targeting of journalists.”
On Friday, two correspondents for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who had just flown into Cairo were detained, the organization said. It said one of the correspondents who was able to speak to another colleague reported that he believed they were being held in a police station.
A Swedish TV reporter, Bert Sundstrom of public broadcaster SVT, was in serious condition at a Cairo hospital after being stabbed in the back on Thursday.
CBS News said correspondent Lara Logan and cameramen Don Lee and Max McClellan were released after being held for a day by the Egyptian military, and were headed back to the United States.
CNN had Anderson Cooper beaten by a crowd:
And here is the Fox story:
and there are more.
So I guess it’s not too surprising that with a ‘green light’ given to beat up journalists (via a public statement that the revolt was being stirred up by journalists who were ‘foreign agents’…) that one government lackey made a mistake and shot the government reporter / photographer… Just gives you an idea how much a target someone would be if they didn’t look Egyptian…
First off, a “thank you” to all the folks covering this story. It’s quite a job you are doing under surprisingly rough conditions.
Second, the “coverage” tonight had less “live coverage” (one reporter who was live said that the ‘neighbors’ had reported the secret police trying to get in to shut him down…) and more “recorded shots”. Standard Procedure now will likely be “get a shot and scoot” before someone comes to shut you down… And there were more shots clearly taken with “variety equipment” and some that was clearly from “just folks” in the crowds.
So “coverage” has changed, but not ended. There are still plenty of cameras “getting the story”.
But what has clearly changed in the tenor of the reporters. Where before it was more “Just the facts” and “this is happening”; now it is more personal and a bit more sympathetic to the protestors. After all, they are both being attacked by the same folks. “My enemies enemy is my friend”…
It’s also pretty clear that the government in Cairo has no idea just how incredibly stupid it is to attack every single media / reporter / blogger in the country. Makes it hard to get “your side of the story” out when every reporter is against you. Even harder when you’ve shot your own reporters…
One thing I’ve found of interest is that even though Ahmad Mohamad Mahmoud was a reporter for the government run press, the other press are still treating him as “one of their own”. And well they ought. He was doing his job of getting the pictures. What the editors might do with them was beyond his control. So I join them in a moment of salute to this young man who has given his life for his trade.