Egypt : Two killed and several journalists arrested

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Nine Egyptian journalists, photographers and one cameraman were the latest arrests in the Northern Delta town of Mahalla Al Kubra, panapress reported from the Egyptian capital Saturday.

Their arrests and detention have highlighted the difficulty of being a media worker in the North African nation, where the government attempts to keep a stiff hand on coverage of popular uprisings.

Intermittent clashes continued throughout the week as employees at the government-owned textile company in the Delta town protested against price hikes and low wages.

At least two people, including a 15-year-old boy watching from his balcony, have been killed in the clashes between protesters and police.

The ministry of information said before the 6 April nationwide general strike that any protesters would be dealt with by the full force of the police.

“The ministry’s agencies will take the necessary and immediate firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, block traffic or hinder public services,” the ministry statement said.

Egypt has been hit hard by rising prices. The World Bank reported that inflation in the country has made the cost of living rise by as much as 50 per cent since the beginning of the year. It said that prices will remain high.

Egyptian bloggers have said that these recent arrests show the government does not want “to allow people to show pictures of the situation.” On the popular blog , 3arabawy administered by journalist Hossam Al Hamalawy, the clashes between citizens and police were called Egypt’s “intifada.”

At least 20 per cent of the country’s 80 million people live on around US$ 2 daily. With salaries remaining stagnant, strikes have erupted nationwide, most notably at the government-owned textile company in Mahalla.

In related news, George Ishaq, a leader in the opposition Kefaya (Enough) movement, was released from detention after spending two days in police custody.

Other activists remain in jail for what the government calls “inciting protests” .

His arrest, activists hope, will galvanize others to head to the streets for the planned 4 May general strike in honour of President Hosni Mubarak’s 80th birthday.

“I hope his (Ishaq’s) arrest will give people more confidence that people are willing to take a hit and keep pushing for this country to change,” one activist said, asking that his name should not be revealed.

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