Journalists' incarcerated based on false and unsubstantiated claims
By: Grayson Harbour, IPI
Vienna, June 23, 2014 - Egyptian authorities have sentenced three Al Jazeera reporters to lengthy prison terms based on ungrounded and extraordinary claims, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, reporters for Al Jazeera English, were sentenced today on charges they were conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of civil strife in Egypt.
"These convictions were completely unfounded," said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie during a live broadcast on Al Jazeera English. "These convictions, including those in absentia, really show the depth and breadth of Egypt's attempts to silence the media."
Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison while Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years. The three additional years were for possession of a single spent bullet casing, according to The New York Times.
"These convictions send the message that if you step out of line based on the guidelines and expectations of the government, you will wind up in prison," McKenzie said.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors were criticized by human rights advocates for presenting evidence that was fabricated or irrelevant to the case. Including videos of Greste's old new reports from other countries, according to CNN.
Following the verdict, Al Jazeera English Managing Editor Al Anstey said, "There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice."
He went on to say, "Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them. At no point during the long, drawn out 'trial' did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny. There were many moments where in any other court of law the trial would be thrown out."
In a report published in February, "Journalists Under Siege", IPI called on Egypt's interim government to free journalists and to improve safety for media workers. Acknowledging Egyptian voters' approval of a new constitution, the report urged the government to "state publicly that it will abide by the letter and spirit of the [January 2014] Constitution --- including articles 70, 71, and 72 that provide guarantees of press freedom, freedom of publication, and the independence of the news media…"
"Now is not the time to be silent," McKenzie said. "We will work with our vast membership and consider what we can do to address the issue of an appeal for these journalists."
For more information on the International Press Institute, go to www.freemedia.at.To see the full report on Egypt, click here.