Egyptian police raid Al Jazeera unit again

CAIRO Fri Sep 30, 2011 1:18am IST

The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad/Files

The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/ Fadi Al-Assaad/Files

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police raided the offices of an Al Jazeera channel in Cairo on Thursday and confiscated equipment for the second time this month, the broadcaster said.

The headquarters of Al Jazeera Mubasher Egypt (Live), which broadcasts live international events, were stormed earlier this month by security officers who said the channel did not have a proper licence. Rights groups said the move was part of a wider media crackdown.

The government denies it tried to censor media and says the channel had not acquired the necessary documents.

"We were surprised when officers ... stormed the headquarters, refused to show us identification and mistreated us, detaining one of our journalists," Ahmed Zein, who heads Al Jazeera Mubasher in Cairo, told Reuters.

He said the channel was told it had to issue a new licence under a separate address from the Al Jazeera headquarters. Zein said the channel had already done that and expected the new licence to arrive on Sunday.

Since its launch in 1996, Al Jazeera has become the highest-profile satellite news broadcaster in the Middle East. It has frequently had difficulties with governments in a region where media have traditionally been tightly controlled.

Under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt often harassed the channel. Egypt briefly shut down its operations in January, accusing it of inciting the protests that toppled Mubarak.

Minister of Information Osama Heikal told Reuters last week the government had no problem with Al Jazeera but that Al Jazeera Mubasher started operating without the necessary permits.

"This is an issue that touches upon sovereignty because they operated without any legal basis," he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement on Sept. 13 it was alarmed by new measures taken against journalists, describing the first raid as an "anti-press measure."

In July, rights groups had documented more than half a dozen cases of harassment of journalists and bloggers over news or opinion pieces critical of the ruling military council. The number has increased since.

(Reporting By Tamim Elyan; Editing by Dina Zayed)

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