Messrs Greste, Fahmy and Mohammed were arrested in December last year along with dozens other reporters.
The Forum for African Investigative Reporters, FAIR, condemns in the strongest terms possible the conviction of three Al Jazeera journalists in Cairo, Egypt.
The three reporters – Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – were convicted and sentenced on Monday to seven years in prison on spurious charges for, among others, allegedly using unlicensed equipment to broadcast false information to defame and destabilize Egypt, which has been on an economic downward slope since the Arab Spring in 2011.
The three were also accused of working without a permit and belonging or assisting a terrorist organization while covering the violent protests and clashes between civilians and the army in Egypt last year.
Messrs. Greste, Fahmy and Mohammed were arrested in December last year along with dozens other reporters.
At FAIR, we view the conviction of the three reporters as nothing but an attempt by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his overzealous security apparatus to clampdown on journalists in general and freedom of the press in particular.
We at FAIR are dismayed that the three reporters were detained mainly for doing their job and that they may have been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of information and dissemination.
According to our colleagues on the ground and in the Middle East, journalists in Egypt are being used by the courts as pawns in the political rivalry between warring political factions in the country, and the deep enmity between the Egyptian government and the Gulf nation of Qatar, which owns the Al Jazeera television network and was a close ally of ousted Islamic President Mohammed Morsi.
FAIR, a pan-African organization looking after the interests of investigative reporters throughout the continent, is acutely aware of a series of brushes, battles and confrontations the media has experienced with successive governments in recent times in Egypt, arising mainly from the latter’s determination to censor the press. This is a cause for major concern to us.
FAIR is also aware that some journalists continue to be stripped naked, beaten up and even killed in the course of their duties.
This serious backsliding to anarchy in Egypt raises deep concerns about the government’s commitment to a free press and freedom of expression.
We therefore call upon the Egyptian government to immediately release the three journalists – and others throughout Egypt who are being used as fodder for politicized legal action – without further delays.
We also call for the appeals court to urgently review all the evidence in this sham political case because there is no legal basis for their detention and incarceration in the first place.