Journalism is not a crime
Three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt have each been handed a seven year prison sentence after a court in Cairo found them guilty of spreading ‘false news’.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been detained at the country’s notorious Tora Prison for six months, with calls from around the world to let the three men go.
The journalists, who all denied the charge of working with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, were charged with helping a ‘terrorist group’ by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money, equipment and information to a group of Egyptians.
The Brotherhood was banned and declared a terrorist group after the army deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, just months after taking control of the country.
Since that day, media outlets in Egypt have virtually stopped criticising the army and government with these latest sanctions likely to cause further worries across the profession.
In the UK, criticism of the sentencing has been widespread with many protests held by journalists in support of their fellow professionals.
UK foreign secretary, William Hague, issued a statement slamming the decision.
“I am appalled by the guilty verdicts handed down today against Egyptian and international journalists in Egypt,” he said.
“I am particularly concerned by unacceptable procedural shortcomings during the trial process, including that key prosecution evidence was not made available to the defence team.”
On Monday, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, added his disapproval, calling upon Egypt's foreign minister to register his ‘serious displeasure’ at the ‘chilling, draconian sentences’.
“Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister (Sameh) Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance,” Kerry said in a statement.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera has been banned from operating in Egypt after accusations of broadcasting support for the ousted Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party. The media company has always denied the allegations.
In total, 20 people were sentenced during Monday’s court hearing including nine Al Jazeera employees.