Krishna expresses shock over attack on Egyptian journalists

New Delhi, Feb.4 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has expressed shock over the detention and attacks on journalists in Egypt on Thursday.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Krishna said: "I am pained and shocked to learn about the detention and attacks on journalists in Egypt, who were reporting on the unfolding developments."

He added: "Such incidents are totally unacceptable and must stop immediately. The journalists must be released unharmed forthwith and the government must ensure their safety and security. Violence has no place in any civil society and must be strongly condemned by all right thinking persons".

Krishna's condemnation of the incident came hours after supporters loyal to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attacked foreign journalists, drawing Washington's censure and international rights groups' accusations that the beatings and detentions were desperate moves by a teetering regime trying to cling to power.

What began as seemingly random incidents in which journalists were roughed up by Mubarak backers Wednesday escalated Thursday with the arrests, beatings and destruction of equipment of dozens of journalists covering the chaotic confrontation in central Cairo.

According to The Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS News and the global Al Jazeera network, reporters for National Public Radio and Foreign Policy magazine suffered blows to the head from pro-Mubarak thugs.

A camera crew was also beaten up near Tahrir Square while filming a story about the unrest's economic fallout.

A Swedish television journalist for SVT whose editors feared that he had been kidnapped was found in a Cairo hospital, severely beaten. A Greek journalist for the newspaper Kathimerini was stabbed in the leg, and a photographer with him struck on the head.

A day earlier, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and ABC's Christiane Amanpour said they were punched and kicked by pro-government henchmen who also smashed their crews' equipment.

Los Angeles Times photographer Carolyn Cole and two Associated Press reporters were detained while covering the melee, as were journalists from Al Arabiya network, four Israeli correspondents and a Belgian who was writing for French-language publications.ox News Channel reported that correspondent Greg Palkot and cameraman Olaf Wiig were "severely beaten" Wednesday, and BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was detained, blindfolded and interrogated after his car was forced off the road in Cairo.

The Egyptian Government is of the view that the media and human rights monitors have been fomenting the unrest that has paralyzed the economy, chased away tourists and threatened to further impoverish workers in the Middle East's most populous nation.

Obama administration officials said they saw the attacks as part of a deliberate strategy of intimidation.

"Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the attacks were "unacceptable under any circumstances."

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley called the mistreatment "a concerted campaign" orchestrated by Mubarak's inner circle.

"We have traced it to elements close to the government, or the ruling party. I don't know that we have a sense how far up the chain it went," Crowley said.

"These actions mark a new low in the Mubarak regime's futile attempts to silence the Egyptian people and hide mounting calls for reform from rest of the world," said Neil Hicks, international policy advisor for Human Rights First.

Egyptian authorities ordered Al Jazeera, a network that reaches 220 million households worldwide, to cease broadcasting from the country as the protests built last week, forcing its journalists to resort to Internet and telephone reports from the scene.

Those communications were also blocked during the height of the protests, although some telecommunications providers activated idle and outdated dial-up lines to help customers in Egypt get connected. (ANI)

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