Australian officials in Egypt are providing consular assistance to an award-winning Australian journalist arrested on suspicion of illegally broadcasting news harming “domestic security”.
Egyptian secret police reportedly arrested Aussie journalist Peter Greste and an Egyptian reporter for the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel after officers from the National Security service raided their makeshift bureau at a Cairo hotel on Sunday
The pair’s equipment was also confiscated in the raid, the interior ministry said in a statement.
It did not identify the journalists, only mentioning that one was a “Muslim Brotherhood member” and the other an Australian, AFP reported.
Their colleagues at Al-Jazeera English identified them as Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy, and Mr Greste.
On Monday night, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “aware of reports on this matter”.
“Australian officials in Cairo are providing consular assistance,” a DFAT spokesman said in a brief statement.
The raid came after authorities listed the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi as a “terrorist organisation”, making membership in Islamist group or even possession of its literature a crime.
The journalists “broadcast live news harming domestic security,” the interior ministry said, adding they were also found in possession of Muslim Brotherhood “publications”.
Let's be clear from the start: interviewing Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is totally legitimate journalistic work. http://t.co/fEngNe9lf1
— Mark Colvin (@Colvinius) December 30, 2013
Greste, a former BBC journalist, won the prestigious Peabody award in 2011 for a documentary on Somalia.
Fahmy, who formerly worked with CNN, is a well-known journalist in Cairo with no known links to the Brotherhood.
Egypt’s military-installed government cracked down on Al-Jazeera’s affiliates following the overthrow of Morsi in July, accusing the broadcaster of pro-Brotherhood coverage.
Several Al-Jazeera reporters remain in detention, including Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist for the Arab 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 Islamists, although an al-Qaeda-inspired group claimed responsibility for the bombing and the Brotherhood condemned it.