12 June 2011
Since the 25 January Revolution, Tahrir (Liberty) Square in central Cairo has gained world-wide fame as the proud site which hosted the revolutionaries. Post-25-January, however, it became the site of countless demonstrations against a variety of complaints—political, economic, or even social. This naturally involved instances of violence, moral and physical alike, among the most atrocious of which occurred on Friday 3 June.
A crew from the Coptic TV channel, commonly known as CTV, was covering the goings-on at Tahrir which, that day, included no more than some 1300 individuals. The correspondent, the attractive thirty-something Marianna Abdou—who is at the same time a reporter at Watani—was going about her business of interviewing the demonstrators, when someone shouted that here was a Jewish woman with an Israeli TV channel crew. In the blink of an eye, the mob rushed at Marianna, beat her up and jostled her. The crew and a few bystanders attempted to rescue her as she pushed back the attackers with all her might. The bystanders lifted her up and carried her to one end of the square where they stopped a taxi and whisked her in. The mob surrounded the cab, and it was only when a policeman, First Lieutenant Ahmed Samy fired six shots in the air that the crowd dispersed and the taxi drove away. Marianna was taken home bruised and severely shaken.
The mob turned its wrath at First Lieutenant Samy. His gun was snatched and he was beaten up so badly he had to be moved to the Police Hospital in Cairo. There he lay till Watani International went to press; the hospital released no information regarding his injury or condition. But countless Egyptians infinitely appreciate his chivalry, which they see goes far above and beyond the call of duty, and sincerely pray the young hero gets well soon.
On CTV, the Sunday 5 June episode of the 10:00pm widely-viewed talk show Finnour (In the light), hosted Marianna, who candidly and courageously talked of the Friday assault in Tahrir.
She began by expressing her “heartfelt gratitude” to First Lieutenant Ahmed Samy as he lay in hospital. Yet the incident which caused so much pain and injury, Marianna said, took no more than a few minutes.
Marianna lamented the falsities propagated by some Cairo papers on the incident. The State-owned daily Rose al-Youssef posted offensive remarks on its website, and wrote that Abdou had tried to commit suicide. “In case of all who printed falsehoods regarding this terrible incident, I promise to take them to court,” Marianna bitterly said.
Two of the CTV crew who were with Abdou on Friday said the day had started uneventfully; they had proceeded with their filming and reporting normally. Then “someone shouted at us that we were an Israeli channel, and the brutal attack began,” John Zarif, a cameraman said. “It was a miracle we were saved,” production manager Beinyamin Azmi said.
On the talk show, Watani’s Nader Shukry described the falsehoods propagated by the Cairo press as an insult to media ethics, which call for accuracy and objectivity. The lawyer Maged Hanna said that it was difficult to realise that the corruption which was so condemned in Tahrir during the days of the revolution was being replaced by another form of corruption. He demanded that the law should take its course quickly.
The anchorwoman, Dina Abdel-Kareem, described Marianna as bright, active and hardworking; she had covered the incident of the New Year Eve bombing of the church of the Saints in Alexandria, and the Coptic demonstrations last March and May at Maspero, Cairo.
Boycott the protests
On a telephone call with Finnour, Watani editor-in-chief Youssef Sidhom described the incident as “By all standards utterly disgraceful.”
He told the viewers that he had launched, through Watani, a campaign calling for the media to boycott demonstrations and sit-ins which, he said, have already achieved their objective. A national project is underway in Egypt, he said, and any demands should be placed with the authorities concerned. The first priority of Egyptians today, he said, should be to get the wheels of production rolling and to set the stage for a democratic, stable State. Media persons, he stressed, ought to be treated with respect and to be granted immunity, for them to perform the role society requires of them.
Executive director of CTV Tharwat Bassily, and vice president of CTV’s board of directors Illiya Bassili, both condemned the attack, describing it as nothing but an act of thuggery. They warmly thanked First Lieutenant Samy and called upon the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack.
For its part, Watani decided it would not content itself with the role of spectator. With the heart of one man, led by Sidhom and associate managing editor Soliman Shafiq, Watani reporters started a campaign to demand that the perpetrators of the assault of Marianna would be brought to justice. They arranged for a protest to be held at the Journalists’ Syndicate next week to rally support for an official investigation into the incident. “The attack is an affront and a threat to all media persons,” Soliman said. “Any of us could have been in Marianna’s place.
“On the human rights level, the women’s rights and professional rights levels, the attack against Marianna should never be allowed to pass unanswered. Marianna has become a living symbol for the conscientious media person who is abused and disgraced for doing his or her duty.”
Watani launched a Facebook page Where is Marianna’s right? to rally support for the cause. The first choice of all the reporters was to name the page We are all Marianna, a choice chosen unanimously and feelingly, but it was discovered that another group already existed with this name. So Where is Marianna’s right? was promptly born, and intends to do its bit.