Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Perils of Photojournalism

 Cairo February 2nd, 2011Andrew Burton

Freelance photojournalist Andrew Burton experienced first-hand the risks of his career yesterday when he was violently attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters. He told his story to The Picture Show, (photos from around the world, as well as commentary from NPR's multimedia team).

Burton describes his attack, “It took about 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the square. As I moved through the thickening crowd, things seemed slightly more tense than earlier in the day. Before I got to where the fighting was taking place, I noticed a pro-Mubarak supporter painting slogans over anti-Mubarak graffiti. I started to photograph him, but was suddenly grabbed from behind by a young man who also slapped his hand over my camera – he was very angry.

A pro-Mubarak supporter paints slogans over anti-Mubarak graffiti. February 2, 2011. 
These were the last photographs Burton took before he was grabbed from behind and beaten by pro-Mubarak supporters. 

Burton tried to walk away but instead became a catylst between pro and anti Mubarak factions. Pro-Mubarak supporters grabbed Burton beating him while anti-Mubarak protesters encircled him trying to move while being beaten “Five or six guys surrounded me and took many more blows than I did”. Slowly they moved toward an Army Tank.

We were headed towards an Egyptian army tank and when we hit it, the men positioned me with my back to the tank, squatting down. At this point, I was pinned. People continued to kick, punch and grab at cameras. Soldiers standing on top of the tank were waving pistols and screaming. My shirt was ripped from my back, hands went into my pockets, the men protecting me were screaming, "You are safe, we are here for you, we will get you out of this."

Anti-Mubarak Protesters on an Army Tank Earlier That Day. Andrew Burton

I only escaped when the soldiers on top of the tank literally ripped me out of the crowd, lifting me by the armpits. I was dumped head-first inside the tank. I found myself surrounded by 14 Egyptian soldiers – young men my age, smiling at me.”

Burton stayed inside the tank until evening when a general escorted him out of the tank getting him a cab to his hotel.

I don't know what happened to the men that protected me. I owe them my life, or something close to it, and I don't know what would have happened to me without them. This is my first time in a situation like this. I was incredibly lucky.

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