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Egypt must drop charges against Al Jazeera journalists

Egypt must drop charges against Al Jazeera journalists

Ahead of a high profile Egyptian court ruling, ARTICLE 19 calls for the retrial of Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste to be discontinued and charges against them dropped unconditionally. We furthermore call for the release of all detained journalists in Egypt.

The three journalists face a verdict on 30 July in their retrail for “spreading false news”, and “aiding and abetting terrorism”. Baher, Mohamed and Peter have committed no crime and are essentially on trial for reporting on political affairs in Egypt: a violation of their right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to receive information.

Baher and Mohamed were imprisoned for 411 days for legitimately reporting for a reputable news organisation. They are currently on bail pending the outcome of a retrial, ordered after their initial convictions were ruled unsafe by Egypt’s highest court.

The third Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, was also jailed for 400 days following the initial trial before being deported. He remains on trial in absentia, even though he is unable to defend himself.

ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes comments:

“Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste should not be on trial at all: journalism is not a crime. These charges must be dropped, and they must be free from threat of imprisonment.  

“These cases are part of a wider crackdown on the exercise of human rights in Egypt: the space for dissent is shrinking. The threat of imprisonment is just one repressive tool of many to shut down legitimate debate. It not only poses a threat to the safety and freedom of journalists, but leads to self-censorship.”

Eighteen journalists are believed to be behind bars in Egypt, and many more are facing trial. The imprisonment of journalists is characteristic of the new media environment in the country: entire media outlets, including Al-Jazeera and Anadolu, a Turkish news agency, have been banned or forced to close their offices. New laws affecting freedom of expression awaiting approval by President el-Sisi look set to further erode the rights and activities of bloggers and journalists.

Thomas Hughes adds:

“The outcome of the retrial will be a test of the Egyptian government’s commitment to human rights. The Egyptian government’s increasing restriction of the space for freedom of expression is a major concern for ARTICLE 19. Media freedom, freedom of assembly and the right to fair trial must be ensured.”

Al Jazeera

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