The Obama administration, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is condemning “in the strongest terms” the crackdown on journalists trying to cover the political upheaval in Egypt. The United States has lodged protests with Egyptian officials in Cairo and Washington.
Officials here are monitoring the attacks on journalists with deep concern, fearing among other things that they might be a prelude to a broader crackdown on dissent as Egypt braces for expected large-scale protests on Friday.
The State Department says the physical attacks and intimidation of Egyptian, American and other foreign journalists is a concerted campaign that is apparently being directed by Egypt’s Interior Ministry.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a press event with Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic, said the United States condemns the attacks in the strongest terms.
"This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press, and it is unacceptable under any circumstances," she said. "We also condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press are pillars of an open and inclusive society. It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values."
Clinton said the Egyptian government including the army, has a "clear responsibility" to protect those threatened, and to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks.
She also said the free elections promised Thursday by the new Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman are essential, and said serious negotiations between the government and a credible array of opposition factions on a "peaceful and orderly transition" should begin immediately.
The State Department said concerns about the media crackdown were conveyed to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit by U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey, and also to the Egyptian embassy in Washington.
Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the attacks are clearly not random, and are apparently an effort to deter news coverage in anticipation of another major opposition rally planned for Friday.
"In our various conversations with Egyptian leaders today, we expressed our great concern about tomorrow, and the possibility of a confrontation and the rising risk of violence," he said. "We are expressing our concerns and offering our advice on what needs to be done."
A senior official here said the State Department has complied a "spread sheet" of attacks on reporters and media outlets and is raising them in detail with Egyptian authorities.
He said U.S. officials are taking reporters’ statements that Egyptian Interior Ministry personnel were involved in the attacks at face value, and asking for an official investigation.