The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad
CAIRO (Reuters) – Al Jazeera said Egyptian security forces arrested three of its journalists after the interior ministry accused the Qatar-based television channel of broadcasting illegally from a hotel suite together with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al Jazeeraâ€™s offices in Cairo have been closed since July 3 when they were raided by security forces hours after the army ousted the Brotherhoodâ€™s Mohamed Mursi from the presidency.
â€œState security received information that a member of the (Brotherhood) used two suites in a Cairo hotel to hold meetings with other members of the organization and turned the suites into a press center,â€ the Interior Ministry said.
â€œ(They) made live broadcasts of news that harms homeland security, spreading rumors and false news to Qatarâ€™s Al Jazeera channel without permits.â€
A member of the Brotherhood and an Australian journalist who works for Al Jazeera were arrested and equipment was seized, including broadcast transmitters, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Al Jazeera said three journalists from its English news channel had been arrested, a correspondent, a producer and a cameraman.
Qatar was a strong financial backer of the Brotherhoodâ€™s rule. Its relationship with Cairo has deteriorated in recent months as it vehemently opposes the armyâ€™s overthrow of Mursi and the crackdown on his movement that has followed.
Since Mursiâ€™s ouster, Egypt has faced some of its worst violence in decades, which the government has blamed on Islamic militants. It declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group last week and has arrested thousands of its members, including Mursi.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about recent developments in Egypt in a call on Sunday to Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, discussing the â€œbalance between security and freedom.â€
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Monday classified Egypt alongside Syria and Iraq as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to operate in.
â€œAmid stark political polarization and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013,â€ the CPJ said.
Egypt is pushing through a political transition that could lead to presidential and parliamentary elections next year. A constitutional referendum is due to take place in mid-January.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif, additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by John Stonestreet)