Close call in Cairo

by Christy Perry

February 4, 2011

'10 photo alumnus one of two Newhouse students attacked in Egypt protests

Before he left for Egypt, Newhouse alumnus Andrew Burton called his friend and former professor Bruce Strong. Strong missed the call, but heard plenty about Burton this week after the May 2010 grad was attacked by an angry mob during public protests in Cairo.

Andrew Burton '10

Burton is working in Egypt on assignment for several news organizations and was photographing demonstrators in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital. He wrote about what led up to his harrowing experience on his blog, "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."

According to his blog post, pro-Mubarak supporters later began slapping and punching him. He was surrounded and protected by pro-democracy supporters and finally grabbed by Egyptian soldiers and tossed into an armored tank. You can hear him talk more about his ordeal in this phone interview with MSNBC's Ed Schultz

Two Andrews, both trained at Newhouse

Burton began that difficult day having breakfast with fellow former Newhouse student Andrew Henderson. Henderson now works for Abu Dhabi-based "The National" and was also photographing the protests on Wednesday, February 2nd. Henderson was also roughed up by pro-government forces that day. You can listen to Henderson explain what happened in this audio slideshow.

Professor Strong says both Andrews are close friends with the Strong family. "My kids kind of see them both as big brothers," he said. Though Strong has not been in touch with Burton or Henderson directly, he is closely monitoring their online updates and is relieved to hear that both of them are safe.

"Everything is pointing to the idea that the media is not going out," Strong said. However, Burton tweeted on February 4th "Happy to report today was a long, good, safe day of shooting. No one hurt, good photos made."

His parents wait for word

Burton's father Rick, who is a professor of practice in the SU's College of Human Ecology's Sport Management Program, says he hasn't heard from his son since the attack, but believes he is safe because Andrew has contacted his sister.

Rick Burton says Andrew's Newhouse journalism training prepared him for the Egypt assignment. "I think he certainly conducted himself professionally," Burton said, "and Newhouse taught him how to do that." Rick Burton credited Professor Strong, as well as Professors David Sutherland and Larry "Doc" Mason for shaping Andrew's life as a photographer.

You can follow Andrew Burton on Twitter at HABurton and read more about his escape from danger on NPR's The Picture Show blog.