Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s announcement by the Egyptian authorities that they are extending the provisional detention of three Al-Jazeera journalists for another 15 days.
Arrested on 29 December, the three journalists are Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy, who has Canadian and Egyptian dual nationality, Australian reporter Peter Greste, and an Egyptian producer who does not want his name published.
A fourth Al-Jazeera journalist who was arrested at the same time as the other three, Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Fawzi, was released on 31 December.
The three detained journalists are accused of broadcasting reports that were “damaging to national security” and of being in possession of Muslim Brotherhood “publications.”
A court is meanwhile due to issue a verdict on 2 February in the case of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr cameraman Mohamed Badr, who was arrested while covering a demonstration on 15 July and has been held ever since. He is facing a possible 15-year jail sentence.
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the journalists detained arbitrarily in Egypt in connection with their journalistic activities.
Four Al-Jazeera journalists arrested arbitrarily in Cairo
Reporters Without Borders condemns sunday night’s arrests of four Al-Jazeera journalists by the Egyptian secret police in Cairo and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
The four detained journalists are bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy, who has Canadian and Egyptian dual nationality, Australian reporter Peter Greste, Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Fawzy and an Egyptian producer.
The interior ministry said they were accused of broadcasting reports that were “damaging to national security” and of being in possession of Muslim Brotherhood “publications.”
“The government established after President Morsi’s removal in July is systematically persecuting news media that it regards as Muslim Brotherhood supporters,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Al-Jazeera is one of the leading targets of this campaign of harassment. The authorities have not hesitated to close its offices and arrest its journalists arbitrarily. This campaign seems to have crossed a new threshold with the government’s decision on 25 December to add the Muslim Brotherhood to its list of terrorist organizations.
“Journalists are now prohibited from having or disseminating Muslim Brotherhood publications or recordings and face a possible five-year jail sentence if they violate the ban. This prohibition and the arbitrary arrests of media personnel constitute grave threats to freedom of information in Egypt.”
Fahmy is a well-known journalist who used to work for CNN and has no known link with the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste is a former BBC reporter who won the Peabody Prize in 2011 for a documentary on Somalia.
Two other journalists employed by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, Mohamed Badr and Abdullah al-Shami, have been detained for months. Badr was arrested on 15 July, and Shami was arrested on 14 August (LINK).
Egypt is ranked 158th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.