White House condemns journalists' detention: 'The world is watching'

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday condemned the targeting and detention of international journalists covering the political unrest in Egypt, calling it "completely and totally unacceptable."

"Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately," Gibbs told reporters onboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. "We need to be clear that the world is watching the actions that are being taken right now in Egypt. The actions of targeting journalists — that is unacceptable. And those journalists, if they are being detained, should be released immediately."

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Earlier Thursday, the State Department condemned what it called the intimidation of American and other members of the media, as reports mounted of violent clashes and reprisals.

"There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted Thursday morning. "We condemn such actions."

The Washington Post reported Thursday that its Cairo bureau chief and a photographer had been arrested.

"We have heard from multiple witnesses that Leila Fadel, our Cairo bureau chief, and Linda Davidson, a photographer, were among two dozen journalists arrested this morning by the Egyptian Interior Ministry," Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said. "We understand that they are safe but in custody and we have made urgent protests to Egyptian authorities in Cairo and Washington. We've advised the State Department as well."

The BBC also tweeted that Egyptian security forces had seized correspondents' equipment at a Cairo hotel "in [an] attempt to stop us broadcasting."

Anderson Cooper, of CNN, was among the U.S. journalists attacked while reporting Wednesday, but other outlets reported similar attacks.

The group Reporters Without Borders condemned what it called "shocking attacks on BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Al-Arabiya and ABC News journalists by Mubarak supporters who were reportedly accompanied by plainclothes police."

“The use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking,” secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said in a statement Wednesday. “Several were directly targeted by the president’s supporters and infiltrated policemen. Several were beaten and their equipment was stolen.

“We remind all parties that journalists are external observers who under no circumstances should be identified with one side or the other," he said. "These attacks seem to have been acts of revenge against the international media for relaying the protests calling for President Mubarak’s resigning. They are also designed to silence journalists and gag news media.


“We urge the international community to react strongly to these excesses,” Julliard added. “And we remind the Egyptian government that it has a duty to apply the law and to urgently restore security for everyone, including media personnel.”

At least five people have been killed in clashes, and as many as 800 have been injured, during protests calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, apologized for the violence Wednesday, even as the clashes continued.

“I offer my apology for everything that happened yesterday, because it’s neither logical nor rational," he said, according to The Associated Press.

This post was first published at 8:51 a.m.