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EGYPT: Government loyalists target foreign journalists after state TV claims 'interference'

February 2, 2011 | 11:32 am

American, European and Middle East journalists reported attacks and threats against them as they covered the violent clashes in Cairo on Wednesday after state-run television reported foreign media were among the outside forces trying to destabilize the country.

The targeting of reporters by loyalists of President Hosni Mubarak brought condemnation from the U.S. State Department and other foreign governments.

Among those roughed up as they monitored Wednesday night's bloody clashes were two Associated Press reporters and CNN's Anderson Cooper and Hala Gorani. Arab media Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya also complained of attacks on their journalists at the scene, and four Israeli reporters and a Belgian were detained by pro-government security forces.

"We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a message on Twitter.

State-run Nile TV reported Tuesday night that foreigners were distributing anti-Mubarak pamphlets, an apparent attempt to cast the recent unrest as the work of foreign instigators.

On Wednesday, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said Mubarak's government had rejected U.S. and European calls for the country to begin political and economic reforms "now," a veiled message that Mubarak's promise not to seek reelection in the autumn wasn't enough to restore order after nine days of demands for his ouster.

The government statement carried by the official MENA news agency said "foreign parties" calling for an immediate leadership transition were intended to "incite the internal situation in Egypt."

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--Carol J. Williams

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