Media clampdown in Egypt

Al Jazeera uses Twitter after gov't pulls it from air

Tensions between journos and the Egyptian government escalated as today’s “march of 1 million” on the capital city of Cairo approached.

Government forces in Egypt cracked down on journalists from Quatar-run news net Al Jazeera on Monday. The network is widely acknowledged as the most authoritative source of international coverage of the efforts by protesters to drive out Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president of almost 30 years. The government announced that it had ordered “suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, canceling of its licenses and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today” via the Middle East and North African News Agency (MENA).

Dan Nolan, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, told Twitter followers that he and fellow journos were being arrested and their equipment seized. “4 soldiers entered room took our camera. Wr ae under military arrest,” read one iPhoned message from Nolan via the microblogging service on Monday afternoon.

Nolan and five colleagues were released three hours later, but their cameras, laptops and phones remained in government custody.

The news net, noted for its use of technology to bolster its coverage, was unavailable by phone on Monday (all voicemails were full) but maintained contact with the outside world via Twitter and stories dictated by phone, despite the order to cease operations.

“Regardless of the multiple attempts by the Egyptian authorities to deter and impede our reporting, Al Jazeera continues its comprehensive coverage of the landmark events unfolding in Egypt,” said net director general Wadah Khanfar via the net’s website.

Egypt’s Nilesat satellite stopped broadcasting Al Jazeera to Egyptian televisions, and Web and phone service (which was restored on Saturday) has also been disrupted in an effort to prevent communication among the protesters. Al Jazeera has fought back by encouraging bloggers to sent “blog posts, eyewitness accounts and videos dealing with the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak,” according to Tel Aviv-based newsdaily Haaretz.

The U.S. Dept. of State has urged the Egyptian government to restore communications services.

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