CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian authorities Tuesday ordered an award-winning Australian journalist and two other reporters working for Al-Jazeera television detained for two weeks on suspicion of “disturbing public security,” a judicial source said.
They were arrested on Sunday amid a widening crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, which the military-installed government declared a “terrorist” group last week.
Al-Jazeera has identified them as Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy — a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen — Australian reporter Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed.
Cameraman Mohamed Fawzi, who was also arrested on Sunday, has since been released.
Prosecutors accused the crew of “working in violation of the law, filming sovereign institutions, and airing videos aimed at disturbing peace and public security,” the source said.
The detention can be extended, and they can be referred to trial if charges are brought against them.
The team was also accused of having maps of Egyptian military installations on their laptops and of working for the channel despite its licence being cancelled by the authorities, the sources added.
The four were arrested at their makeshift office in a Cairo hotel.
Greste, a former BBC journalist, won the prestigious Peabody award in 2011 for a documentary on Somalia.
Qatar, which hosts and funds Al-Jazeera, was a big supporter of Morsi before his overthrow by the army in July last year.
To the fury of the military-installed interim government, it has been an outspoken critic ever since.
On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera expressed outrage at the crew’s detention.
“It is outrageous to be treating bone fide journalists in this way,” said Al-Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey.
“The allegations that are being made are totally false and unfounded. We operate in Egypt legally.”
The team had been working on stories showing the situation in Egypt, he said, adding that each member of the team “has huge experience carrying out the highest quality journalism with integrity”.
Other Al-Jazeera reporters remain in detention, including Abdullah Elshamy of the Arabic language station arrested on August 14 when police dispersed an Islamist protest camp in Cairo, killing hundreds in clashes.
The government declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation” last week after a suicide car bombing of a police headquarters killed 15 people.
It blamed the attack on the Brotherhood which the movement condemned, while an Al-Qaeda-inspired group claimed responsibility for it.
On Monday, media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists said Egypt came third for the number of journalists killed on the job in 2013, after Syria and Iraq.
“Amid stark political polarisation and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013,” the CPJ said.
Three were killed on August 14 as they were reporting on the police crackdown on Morsi’s supporters in Cairo.
The CPJ said that since 1992 it has documented the deaths of 10 journalists for their work in Egypt — nine of them since the uprising against Hosni Mubarak erupted in 2011.