December 26, 2014 - Updated on April 29, 2016

RSF calls for release of Al-Jazeera journalists

Reporters Without Borders again urges the Egyptian authorities to free Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and end the judicial nightmare to which they have been subjected. A court is due to begin hearing their appeal on 1 January.

The first anniversary of their arrest will be on 29 December. In June they were given sentences ranging from seven to ten years in prison on charges of disseminating false news and belonging to a “terrorist organization.” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi alluded on 20 November to the possibility of a pardon if it serves the national interest.

We urge President Sisi to pardon the Al-Jazeera journalists, who are not guilty of the charges brought against them and were just doing their job at the time of their arrest,” Reporters Without Borders programme director Lucie Morillon said.

Their arbitrary conviction perfectly illustrates how the regime has been cracking

down on foreign and local media personnel with real or imagined links to the

Muslim Brotherhood. Journalists must not be persecuted in the name of combatting terrorism.”

In a letter published at the start of December by Canadian Journalists for Free

Expression, Fahmy – who was Al-Jazeera English’s Cairo bureau chief and who has

dual Canadian and Egyptian nationality – said he and his colleagues were victims of the cold war being wage between Egypt and Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.

He also criticized the failure of news media to provide journalists with adequate

protection and said they should maintain a dialogue with the governments of

countries where they send their journalists in order to prevent them from being

arrested on spurious grounds.

International support

The jailed Al-Jazeera journalists have received a great deal of international support in the past year and their case has been much discussed on social networks. The #FreeAJStaff hashtag went viral and has been used more than 450,000 times.

Reporters Without Borders has also campaigned for their release. Its actions

included launching a petition in July that called for them to be freed and accused the Egyptian authorities of violating the new constitution adopted in January.

When Sisi visited Paris in November, Reporters Without Borders addressed an

open letter to French President François Hollande pointing out that the iniquitous proceedings against the Al-Jazeera journalists had cast doubt on the independence of the Egyptian judicial system. The Egyptian government had a responsibility to ensure that journalists receive the protection they need to report the news freely and safely, Reporters Without Borders said.

Ever since the army seized power in July 2013, Sisi has orchestrated a regime

of terror that has constantly targeted journalists working for media directly or

indirectly linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been classified as a

“terrorist organization.”

At least 30 journalists were arbitrarily arrested in 2014 on charges of organizing or participating in demonstrations or supporting a terrorist organization. According to the Reporters Without Borders tally, at least 20 news providers are currently being held arbitrarily, including several foreign citizens.

One of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists in 2014, Egypt is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.