Trial of Al-Jazeera journalists resumes in Egypt

10 April 2014

Concern grows surrounding freedom of expression in country

The trial of three journalists from the Qatari news agency Al-Jazeera resumed in Egypt on 10 April.

Peter Greste, Mohamed Adel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have all been charged with falsifying news and having links with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The three reporters were seized in Cairo last December and have now spent more than 100 days in jail.

Journalists and news organisations around the world have voiced their concern about the trial, launching various campaigns on Twitter in the past few weeks condemning Egypt’s suppression of journalism.

Human rights organisations have also criticised the trial, with Amnesty International releasing a statement on 9 April denouncing the detention of the reporters as “vindictive”.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme deputy director, said the journalists were “prisoners of conscience” and called for them to be released “immediately and unconditionally”.

The US has also called for Egypt to drop the charges against the journalists, and has expressed concern about the restriction of press freedom.

“Journalists, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs free from intimidation or fear of retribution,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the secretary of state, on 7 April. “Egypt’s constitution upholds these basic rights and freedoms, and the interim government has a responsibility to ensure they are protected.”

The journalists’ trial is to resume, following news that the three-year jail sentences for three leading Egyptian activists is being upheld by a Cairo court. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were jailed at the end of last year for breaking a newly introduced law that banned unauthorised protests.

The three activists played key roles in the revolution that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak. The upholding of the jail terms has further fuelled concerns about Egypt’s methods of repressing dissent.

The journalists’ trial resumes ahead of the recently announced presidential elections due to be held in May. The elections will mark the transition to an elected leadership from the interim government that has been in place since July last year, when the Muslim Brotherhood-backed former president Mohamed Mursi was ousted from power by the military.

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