WH calls on Egypt to free journalists

The White House on Tuesday expressed "deep concern" over the imprisonment late last year of a trio of journalists working for Al Jazeera in Egypt.

Three employees of the network — producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and correspondent Peter Greste — have been detained since Dec. 28, and are accused of joining a terrorist organization.

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"The restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt are a concern, and that includes the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists and academics simply for expressing their views," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "These figures, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs freely in Egypt."

The White House spokesman stopped short of threatening to withhold aid if Egypt did not free the journalists, but said the administration had expressed their concern "directly to the government in Egypt."

"Egypt's transition can only move forward if all Egyptians are free to express themselves peacefully, without fear of intimidation or violence," Carney said. "Egypt's newly approved constitution upholds basic rights and freedoms, and Egypt's interim government has a responsibility to ensure that they are protected."

Al Jazeera has adamantly denied the charges brought against its employees.

"We condemn the allegations directed at our staff by Egyptian authorities which are aiming to stigmatise us, and further incite violence against our journalists working on the ground. This is all part of a larger antagonistic campaign against us," Al Jazeera spokesperson Ghassan Abu Hussein said in a statement.