White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday the Egyptian government must not target journalists covering anti-government protests, and reiterated that the time for political transition was now.
"Any journalist that has been detained should be released immediately," Gibbs told reporters traveling with the president, adding that acts to intimidate the media were "completely and totally unacceptable."
At least six people were killed during overnight fighting in Cairo between anti-government protesters and those loyal to President Hosni Mubarak, whose offer to quit power in September has been rejected by an opposition that wants him out now.
The United States, a huge donor to long-time ally Egypt, has urged Mubarak to immediately begin an orderly transfer of power and strongly condemned the latest violence, which protesters claim is being instigated by the Mubarak regime.
Gibbs reiterated Washington's message that the authorities must allow street demonstrations to proceed in safety.
"The government of Egypt has to ensure that peaceful protests can take place," he said. "The time for the transition in Egypt is now."
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Sandra Maler)
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