A diplomat and a journalist get in a physical altercation
The journalist says he was targeted for covering the news
The consul general apologizes, but says both sides are at fault
The voting in Egypt’s historic presidential election is over, but tensions are still running high at the Egyptian Consulate in New York.
An Egyptian reporter covering the expatriate vote at the consulate last week and a diplomat got into a physical altercation when the journalist was abruptly told to stop interviewing a voter. And it was all caught on tape.
In the video, posted on YouTube a day after the May 17 incident, the journalist, El Sayed Mousa of the El Wafd newspaper, can be seen interviewing an Egyptian voter about casting his first vote ever.
“All of a sudden someone came and said ‘stop’ and when I say ‘who are you,’ he said ‘shut up’ and start taking my camera,” Mousa said.
That somebody was Vice Consul General Elsayed Thanaa, who Mousa now accuses of singling him out at the order of Consul General Yousef Zada.
Zada, a veteran Egyptian diplomat, insists Mousa was not targeted and was told to wrap up his filming because the consulate needed to tally ballots on the final night of voting. The consul general concedes his aide went too far in his treatment of the camera-toting reporter.
“I don’t think it was proper for my staff to push the gentleman away, and we apologize for that,” Zada told CNN.
The consul said he was concerned Mousa’s camera had filmed sensitive material involved in the election process.
The journalist denied he was looking for any type of voting misconduct. After the camera was seized from the reporter, a consular official took it back to Zada’s office, where it kept rolling.
Zada is heard expressing concern that any video of the polling area might show some drivers for the consulate who would have been in an improper area while the voting was taking place. Zada told CNN he wanted to erase the tape to avoid any misperceptions. However, the video shows the camera being later returned to the journalist.
“This is the way they treat everybody if you are in any government building in Egypt,” Mousa told CNN Thursday. “That revolution didn’t hit them yet. They don’t know Egypt’s changing and we’re not supposed to see this anymore. And if I accepted this here, in New York, what will they do to the people?”
Asked about the timing of this incident in the thick of Egypt’s groundbreaking elections, the consul general said everyone involved is to blame.
“Feelings were high. We’re having elections. Everyone is tired. We’re all eager to see who’s going to win. It’s a mixture of feelings between Egyptians,” he said.
The consul general described himself as a friend of Mousa, the frustrated reporter.
But Mousa accused the consulate of targeting him as “punishment for us (El Wafd newspaper) because we (are) just following the story and covering everything.”