Al-Jazeera accuses Egypt of intimidation against staff

TV network denies pro-Islamist bias and says authorities have been ‘tightening grip on freedom’ of its workers

Al-Jazeera has accused the Egyptian authorities 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 Egypt’s military ousted President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, 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 state viewed as sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, al-Jazeera had been criticised by many Egyptians for its perceived bias in covering their country.

Al-Jazeera said Egypt 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 that the authorities had filed a lawsuit saying it had stolen two transmission feeds from state television and used them to broadcast protests at a square where Morsi supporters had been camped since he was ousted.

The television station also said its staff were being prevented from covering official news conferences and 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, a 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 because of the Egyptian “campaign” against it.

Qatar, which gave Egypt $7bn 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.

Morsi’s downfall marked a recalibration of power among Gulf 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.

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