Over 100 groups demand release of Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt

Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste await the guilty verdict in their case on June 23, 2014. PHOTO: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih
Wednesday, July 2, 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 one of over 100 members and partners of IFEX – the global network defending freedom of expression – condemning the recent verdict of the Cairo court in the case involving journalists from Al Jazeera English.

Nairobi-based Al Jazeera English reporter Australian Peter Greste, the Al Jazeera English Cairo bureau chief Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and the Al Jazeera producer Baher Mohamed have been detained since December 29 – part of that time they were held in solitary confinement.

The verdict of the court, despite the lack of evidence and bizarre court proceedings over more than a dozen hearings, is an appalling attack on press freedom and carries an implicit threat to all media working in Egypt.

The court proceedings have been farcical from the outset and there has not been a shred of evidence presented by the prosecution that in any way implicates the journalists in the charges of defaming Egypt and having ties to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. Contrary to the charges the three journalists have behaved ethically and responsibly while reporting on a complex, rapidly changing political environment in Egypt.

Evidence presented to the court by the prosecution included holiday photographs of Peter Greste's parents, a recording of popular Australian singer Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know; Greste's award-winning reports from East Africa, Sky News Arabia's tourism reports, poorly photoshopped images, and BBC podcasts.

Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional three years in prison for possession of ammunition, referring to a spent bullet casing that he had found on the ground during a protest.

Evidence against Fahmy, Greste, and Mohamed included a clearly doctored photograph depicting Fahmy with former Egyptian military chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, fabricated reports by "technical experts" and run of the mill reporting on sexual assaults in Tahrir Square.

We the undersigned call on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to take immediate steps to rectify this extraordinary attack on press freedom and human rights:

  • • We call on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Egyptian authorities to immediately release the three Al Jazeera English journalist and all journalists detained for their journalism
  • • We urge the Egyptian government to overturn the verdict so that it is not a precedent to be used against other journalists in the future
  • • We urge that both local and foreign journalists working in Egypt be free to carry out their duties without harassment, intimidation or violence
    • We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

      Yours sincerely,

      Arnold Amber, CJFE President

      Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
      ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
      Afghanistan Journalists Center
      Albanian Media Institute
      Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
      ARTICLE 19
      Association for Civil Rights
      Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
      Association of Caribbean Media Workers
      Bahrain Center for Human Rights
      Cambodian Center for Human Rights
      Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
      Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
      Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
      Committee to Protect Journalists
      Federation of Nepali Journalists
      Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
      Freedom Forum
      Hong Kong Journalists Association
      Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
      Index on Censorship
      Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
      Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
      International Federation of Journalists
      International Publishers Association
      Journaliste en danger
      Journalists' Trade Union
      Media Institute of Southern Africa
      Media Watch
      National Union of Somali Journalists
      Norwegian PEN
      Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
      Pakistan Press Foundation
      PEN American Center
      PEN Canada
      PEN International
      Reporters Without Borders
      Southeast Asian Press Alliance
      West African Journalists Association
      World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
      World Press Freedom Committee
      Aliran, Malaysia
      Amnesty International Australia
      Asosiasaun Jornalista Timor Lorosa’e-AJTL
      Australian Broadcasting Corporation
      Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF)
      Black Stump Media
      Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists
      Brisbane Times
      Building and Wood Workers International
      Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists
      Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ)
      Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA)
      Center for Media Research - Nepal (CMR - Nepal)
      CHOICE
      Community Newspaper Group in Western Australia
      Crunch Media, Sydney, Australia
      The Globe and Mail
      Grupo de los Cien, Mexico
      Indian Journalists Union
      INFORM Human Rights Documentation centre, Sri Lanka
      Karen News
      Alan Kennedy, Australia
      The Media Foundation, India
      Mohamed Taha,
Journalist, Western Sydney Bureau - ABC News
      National Union of Journalists - Nepal
      Neha Dixit, Independent Journalist, South Asia
      Nepal Press Union
      Nepal Sports Journalists Forum
      Network of Women in Media, India
      New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union Inc. (EPMU)
      New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
      Next Media Trade Union Hong Kong
      NOW Magazine
      NUJ Nepal
      Online Journalists Association, Nepal
      Pakistan Federation of Journalists
      Partners for Law in Development
      PEN Flanders
      PEN Melbourne
      PEN Quebec
      PEN South Africa
      PEN USA
      Photojournalists Club, Nepal
      Point of View, Mumbai
      Radio 2GB, Sydney
      Rule of Law Institute of Australia
      Seven Network (Operations) Limited
      Sky News Australia
      Sky News New Zealand
      South Asian Free Media Association Sri Lanka Chapter
      South Asian Women in Media Sri Lanka
      SRC-CBC News
      Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
      Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
      Swedish PEN
      Sydney PEN Centre
      thehoot.org, India
      The Tribe Press Agency
      Toronto Star
      The Walkley Foundation
      Amanda Wilson Communications

      Cc: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
      The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
      The Honourable Lynne Yelich, P.C., M.P., Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular Services)
      Mr. David Drake, Ambassador of Canada to the Arab Republic of Egypt
      His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt