Last Updated: Thu Feb 03, 2011 22:36 pm (KSA) 19:36 pm (GMT)

World leaders condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt

Al Arabiya correspondent Ahmed Abdullah
Al Arabiya correspondent Ahmed Abdullah

The United States Thursday condemned a "concerted campaign" of intimidation against international journalists covering the unrest in Egypt, as news media reported a string of assaults and arrests.

Other foreign leaders and rights activists also denounced the attacks and harassment and one French media executive accused Egyptian state television of inciting "lynching."

"Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who reiterated that the time for political transition in Egypt was now. Gibbs said acts to intimidate the media were "completely and totally unacceptable."

"There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting. We condemn such actions," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement issued via Twitter.

"We condemn such actions," he added.

Correspondents, photographers and cameramen reporting on the fierce clashes that took place in Cairo's central Tahrir Square said supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak had turned on them on Wednesday and Thursday.

Attack on Al Arabiya

Al Arabiya news channel said its correspondent Ahmed Abdullah had been severely beaten by Mubarak supporters, while correspondent Ahmed Bagatu was beaten and taken to the hospital, where he was placed under careful watch.

The Washington Post also reported its Cairo bureau chief and staff photographer had been detained. A translator working for them is also believed to have been taken into custody, the U.S. newspaper said.

French broadcasters TF1 and France 24 said half a dozen of their journalists had been detained. TF1 described armed men in civilian men taking three of its reporters to an unknown destination, while France 24 said it had no news of three of its journalists held since Wednesday by "military intelligence services".

Al-Jazeera, which has been targeted by Egyptian authorities for its coverage of the events, said security forces had detained three of its staff and another was reported missing.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT said it was without news of one of its reporters it believed was being held by Egyptian military.

Some described being arrested by police and having their equipment confiscated or destroyed.

"Egyptian state television has referred to foreign journalists as being responsible for what is happening," said Thierry Thuillier, head of news at France Televisions.

"They are inconvenient witnesses, we are seeing a systematic assault on foreign journalists."

"Attacks against journalists are completely unacceptable," said a joint statement from the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain Thursday.

BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reported that Egyptian secret police had handcuffed, blindfolded and interrogated him for three hours before releasing him.

"No control"

CNN star correspondent Anderson Cooper reported how he and his camera crew were attacked by Mubarak supporters just outside Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

"It was pandemonium," he said. "There was no control. Suddenly a man would come up to you and punch you in the face."

Police arrested three Polish journalists covering the unrest, Polish Television TVP reported.

Two others with the station were briefly detained before being released Thursday, and one said they had been accosted by a mob in central Cairo. Police had destroyed his camera, he added.

Russian's foreign ministry said Thursday its diplomats had tracked down two correspondents for the Zvezda television station at a military counter-espionage centre.

"They had been arrested for breaking the curfew and for having filmed public places without the necessary authorization", said a ministry statement.

A reporter and a photographer for Greek daily Kathimerini were injured in Wednesday's violence, a Greek government official said Thursday, while Belgian daily Le Soir said its reporter Serge Dumont had described being beaten up and then arrested.

France's BFM TV also reported three of its journalists were beaten before being rescued by a passing army convoy and the Associated Press said its journalists had been harassed and intimidated and their equipment taken.

Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere has called for Dumont's "immediate release."

Turkey's Anatolia news agency said Mubarak supporters on Thursday "severely" beat Metin Turan, a journalist for the public TRT broadcaster, and took his money, camera, photo camera and mobile phone.

Turan managed to escape and took refuge at the Turkish embassy.

From New York, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said the attacks were a deliberate policy of the Mubarak administration.

Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the "shocking" attacks.

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