Deeply concerned by detention of Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
His Excellency Wael Ahmed Kamal Aboul-Magd Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Canada Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Ottawa 454 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6R3 Dear Ambassador, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE is deeply concerned by the increasingly hostile environment for foreign journalists working in Egypt, culminating in the arbitrary arrest of four Al Jazeera English journalists on December 29, 2013. Mohamed Fahmy (a Canadian citizen), Mohamed Fawzy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed were arrested during a raid on their hotel. While Fawzy was later released the other three journalists remain in custody with their videos and other materials pertaining to their work confiscated even though they have yet to be charged with any crime. The four journalists were arrested after filming an interview with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and have been accused of belonging to a Muslim Brotherhood terrorist cell and of “tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad and harming its political position.” The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization on December 25, 2013, and it has since become an offence to simply report on the activities of the political opposition group. CJFE believes it is patently false to equate reporting on a group’s activities with membership in that group. The continued detention of these journalists appears to be part of a broader, disturbing trend of obstruction and open hostility toward media in Egypt, as two other Al Jazeera Arabic journalists, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Badr, have similarly been held without charge for more than five months. CJFE is deeply concerned that the detention of these journalists constitutes an attempt by the Egyptian government to inhibit critical reporting and gravely stifle freedom of expression. The journalists in question are professionals who strive to present unbiased, quality reporting on current events in Egypt. CJFE strongly urges the Egyptian government to immediately free Mohamed Badr, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Abdullah al-Shami. Furthermore, CJFE calls on Egyptian authorities to cease their portrayal of foreign media outlets as enemies of the state, and respect the independence of the media and its importance as a pillar of democracy. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Cc: Mr. David Drake, Ambassador of Canada to the Arab Republic of Egypt The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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