“We have expressed concerns about the detainment and trial of Al Jazeera staff and journalists, as well as others, and we have expressed those concerns directly to the government of Egypt,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “We have strongly urged the government to drop these charges and release those journalists who have been detained.”
Reports say as many as 20 journalists for Al Jazeera are being held by Egypt’s government, with many facing charges that they conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Human rights groups say the charges are trumped up and part of a crackdown on the press after Egypt’s military ousted democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi and banned the Brotherhood, his political party.
“We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing lack of freedom of expression and press freedoms in Egypt,” Carney added. “The government's targeting of journalists and others on questionable claims is wrong and it demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.”
Carney said that all journalists “must be permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt.”
He pledged that the U.S. would “closely” watch the trial of Al Jazeera journalists and staffers, calling the government’s criminal charges “questionable.”