|© AFP Patrick Baz|
WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday condemned the targeting of journalists by pro-government supporters in Egypt as “totally” unacceptable and renewed its condemnation of violence against protesters.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also reiterated US calls on President Hosni Mubarak to start an immediate transition of power “now” but did not publicly call on the embattled Arab strongman to step down.
“I want to say a word about the systematic targeting of journalists in Egypt,” Gibbs said aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to an event in Pennsylvania.
“This … is completely and totally unacceptable. Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately.”
Gibbs spoke out after pro-government mobs roamed Cairo targeting foreign reporters covering the uprising against Mubarak.
The Washington Post said its Cairo bureau chief and a photographer had been detained on Thursday. Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, ABC News, CNN, France 2, France 24, Radio-Canada, Le Soir have also all been targeted.
Gibbs also spoke out against brutal scenes of violence between Mubarak partisans and anti-government protesters, which defied US calls for Cairo to permit peaceful demonstrations to continue.
“I want to reiterate our administration and our country’s strong condemnation of the violence and the images that we’ve seen over the past many hours,” he said.
Obama’s spokesman said he hoped that Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s promise of an inquiry into the violence would be upheld.
“We hope that his acknowledgement that anybody that is involved in this will be held accountable is something that the government is serious about,” Gibbs said.