Four journalists working for Al-Jazeera have been arrested by Egyptian authorities, the pan-Arab satellite channel said on its website, in an apparent escalation of Egyptian authorities’ harsh campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Qatar-based channel called for their immediate release.
The four, who were arrested late Sunday, were identified by Al-Jazeera as correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy. Greste, an award-winning Australian journalist, has previously worked for Reuters, CNN and the BBC, and Fahmy serves as Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief, according to colleagues.
The Interior Ministry, in a statement cited by regional news outlets, said the men were accused of making reports harmful to national security
and possessing Muslim Brotherhood publications. It did not identify them by name, but specified their nationalities.
The arrests came amid a concerted official crackdown on the Brotherhood, the country’s largest and oldest Islamist movement. The interim military-backed government last week declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, which gives authorities sweeping powers to move against anyone connected with the group or expressing support for it.
Prohibited acts could include taking part in a demonstration in favor of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi or displaying the Brotherhood’s unofficial emblem, a four-fingered salute, or posting an image of it on social media.
Brotherhood-linked media outlets were shuttered by Egyptian authorities in the wake of the popularly supported army coup against Morsi in July. In the intervening months, Al-Jazeera has had repeated run-ins with Egyptian authorities.
In recent days, the channel has been actively covering ongoing protests by pro-Morsi students at Al-Azhar University, which have boiled over into violent clashes with police.