On the due date of the verdict, the Egyptian court unexpectedly announced a delay; Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were barred from entering the courtroom. The verdict has been delayed until the 29th August, the re-trial having been adjourned for the tenth time.
Ahead of a high profile Egyptian court ruling, ARTICLE 19 calls for an end to the re-trial of Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste and for charges against them to be 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 re-trial for “spreading false news”, and “aiding and abetting terrorism”. Mohamed, Fahmy and Greste 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.
Mohamed and Fahmy 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, unable to defend himself.
ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes commented:
“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.”
Notes to Editors
- ARTICLE 19 promotes and defends freedom of expression and information globally. Our vision is a world in which all people can speak freely, actively engage in public life and express themselves without fear or discrimination.
- ARTICLE 19’s recent report on Egypt outlined the way new laws restricting free expression replicate the same restrictive legal environment that characterised emergency law under President Mubarak.
- CPJ, June 2015: Egypt’s imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high
Luke Upchurch (UK): luke[@]article19.org