Egypt arrests four Al Jazeera English journalists

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Students of Al Azhar University who support the Muslim Brotherhood gesture towards riot police during clashes outside their campus in Cairo on December 9, 2013. Police have shown little tolerance for the Islamists' rallies since Morsi's removal, and a new law allows them to clamp down hard on all but interior ministry-sanctioned demonstrations.

Egypt’s government has arrested four journalists working for Al Jazeera English in Cairo.

Police took Peter Greste, a correspondent from Australia, Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who has Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, and producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, both Egyptian, into custody on Sunday.

Egyptian police accused the men of “broadcasting news that threatens internal security and spreading false news.”

The Interior Ministry also said the reporters, who had been broadcasting from the five-star Marriott hotel, were holding illegal meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government last week declared a terrorist organization.

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Al Jazeera English has been covering violent anti-government protests by pro-Morsi students at Al Azhar University in recent days.

"Today's arrests have big implications for the country's press freedom," Shaimaa Abulkhair, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Egypt consultant, told the Guardian. "The authorities are willing to move against any channel that is not seen as supportive of the current government."

On Monday, a security official told the Associated Press that Egyptian state security prosecutors had interrogated the journalists. State security prosecutors typically work on cases involving national security or terrorism, the AP noted.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera has called for its employees’ immediate release. "We condemn the arbitrary arrest of Al Jazeera English journalists working in Cairo and demand their immediate and unconditional release," the news organization said in a statement.