Several foreign journalists covering the confrontations between pro and anti regime protesters in Cairo, became the target of violent attacks on Wednesday, a media watchdog and news organisations said.
Correspondents, photographers and cameramen reporting on the fierce clashes that took place in Cairo's central Tahrir Square said that the supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak were hostile to the press.
An AFP journalist said he needed the protection of two soldiers to be able to exit the square without being hurt by aggressive pro regime protesters surrounding the area.
Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the "shocking" attacks appeared in revenge for the coverage of nine days of protests calling for the departure of Mubarak. "These attacks seem to have been acts of revenge against the international media for relaying the protests calling for President Mubarak's resigning," Jean-François Julliard, secretary general of the Paris based group, said in a statement.
"They are also designed to silence journalists and gag news media," he said of attacks reported against BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Al Arabiya and ABC News journalists, among others. Several of the reporters were hit and their equipment was stolen, Julliard said.
RSF urged the international community to "react strongly to these excesses".
The United States also voiced concern at attacks on journalists. "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 Philip Crowley said on the microblogging website Twitter.
Among the journalists attacked were Anderson Cooper of CNN, Herome Boehm of the BBC, and Lara Setrakian of ABC News, RSF said. Belgian newspaper Le Soir said its correspondent Serge Dumont was beaten up and dragged off to a barrack in Cairo by non identified civilians who accused him of supporting Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei.
He told the daily in a brief phone conversation that he received several blows to the face, was taken to a military barrack and accused of being a spy. Dumont also covers the Middle East from Israel for Swiss paper Le Temps and French regional paper La Voix du Nord.
Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere called for Serge Dumont's "immediate release."
A cameraman working with the Canadian state television Radio Canada was also rescued by the army after falling into the hands of the crowds at Tahrir Square. Sylvain Castonguay was beaten up by dozens of people in a "collective hysteria" said reporter Jean-Francois Lepine on Radio Canada.
Two Swedish journalists with the Aftonbladet tabloid were also attacked by an angry mob while reporting from an impoverished area of Cairo before a soldier arrested them and held them for several hours, the daily said.
Three Israeli journalists were arrested for violating a curfew imposed by the authorities. But the trio -- two television crew and a writer for an Arab Israeli website -- have been released and were returning to Israel, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmore told AFP.
French international news channel France 24 said three of its journalists had been detained while covering protests in Egypt and were being held by "military intelligence services". "Two of them were detained during the protest" in Cairo, a spokeswoman for France 24, Nathalie Lenfant, told AFP.
A third journalist, who was slightly injured during the protest, was separately detained at a barricade, she said.
Saudi owned Al Arabiya news channel said its correspondent Ahmed Abdullah was severly beaten by Mubarak supporters.
The Doha based Al Jazeera said that six journalists working for its English language news channel were briefly arrested. The six were Australian, Portuguese and British nationals, an Al Jazeera spokesman told AFP.
Authorities in Cairo had, the day before, shut the Al Jazeera office over its live coverage of anti regime protests.
It also blocked Al Jazeera's satellite broadcast through Nilesat, interrupting its programmes aross the region.
The Egyptian ministry of information declined to comment about the attacks and arrests.