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Al Jazeera Journalists Get 7-10 Years Imprisonment for ‘Spreading False News’

Al Jazeera Journalists Get 7-10 Years Imprisonment for ‘Spreading False News’

In December of 2013, three journalists working for Al Jazeera were arrested and detained in Egypt. These men, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, were charged with spreading false news, aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and working without a permit. Held in Egypt’s Tora Prison, which has housed some of Egypt’s most infamous criminals, they awaited their trial for 177 days.

Eventually, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed had their day in court. However, it was hardly the fair hearing the world was waiting for.

Rather, the prosecution, using ‘evidence‘ such as holiday photos from years back, doctored photos and a music video of Gotye (yes the pop star), won their case against the journalists. The court then sentenced the three men to 7-10 years behind bars. Journalists Fahmy and Greste were given 7 year sentences, charges of which included colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. Mohamed was sentenced to another 3 years because during the protest he picked up a spent bullet shell. According to the Egyptian Court this put him in ‘possession of ammunition.’

Two more Al Jazeera journalists, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, were tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in Egyptian prison. For these journalists, having a charge this serious levied against them could strain their careers, as numerous countries around the world will not grant visas to ‘criminals’. However, the Doha office of Al Jazeera have vowed to support their reporters regardless.

AJE’s managing director, Al Anstey said in a statement that, “Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. ‘Guilty’ of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ‘Guilty’ of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world.” Al Anstey went on to promise that, “We will continue with resolve and determination until Baher, Peter, and Mohamed are free and safely reunited with their families.”

The Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has since said that he refuses to ‘interfere’ with the guilty verdict, out of respect to the courts. However, Sisi, the former head of the Egyptian military, has motives that have been called into question.

The former Egyptian President, Morsi, was thrown out of office when riots and clashes broke out over discontent with his policies. While these clashes were a legitimate airing of grievances, the military crackdown on Morsi supporters was incredibly violent. Because Sisi commanded these troops, and journalists covered this deadly repression, it’s hardly farfetched to wonder if Sisi has proper motivation for keeping the AJE staff behind bars.

In a question and answer Twitter session with convicted journalist Sue Turton, she repeated these allegations, saying, “Many believe Sisi already interfered with this trial and that’s why [there’s a] guilty verdict in spite of evidence.”

Fahmy is a Canadian-Egyptian dual citizen, and Greste is an Australian citizen, yet only light condemnation has been given out by their respective countries. Canada expressed ‘disappointment’ in the verdict and stated they’d continue working with consular service to get Fahmy both proper medical care and information. Meanwhile in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott called it a “very harsh sentence” and also promised to keep working with the Egyptian government to set Peter Greste, and his colleagues, free.

However, heavy condemnation has come from a number of press groups and human rights activists. Human Rights Watch laid out some of the harshest criticism saying of Egypt, “The new constitution’s guarantees of free expression are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Former UN attorneys have noted that using international laws, which Egypt is beholden to, might be the best route to go down to free the journalists. However, it’s yet to be seen if Canada or Australia are willing to do this. Further calls have demanded President Sisi to overturn the sentence, although he claims this is impossible until after all their appeals are expended. So for now the world watches and waits, as the rights of these three journalists recede behind their cell walls.

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9:04PM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

Its a touchy situation for sure Jonathan. ON the one hand the MB doesnt like sharing power…and abuse it. on the other side we have someone who wants to crush them. Idologies are dangerous things.
They MUST leaner to share power but either one or both sides seem incapable of dpoing so.

3:26PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Thanks for petition, MNJ, signed.

Whatever your views on journalists, the recent actions of our ally, Egypt, are so anti-human rights as to be beyond belief. It's like watching the Reign of Terror in post-Revolutionary France....blood is flowing in the streets and on the scaffold.

Although many of us have many reasons for disliking the M.B., it seems to me Sisi is little better than Morsi. He is enforcing a de facto military dictatorship, and history shows violent repression is often followed by even more violent revolution. It's deja vu all over again.

It was violent repression of the M.B. by the previous regimes which spawned the likes of Al-Zawahiri and other extremists. It seems to me a colossal mistake to do this again. It could easily lead to an Islamic dictatorship after the next revolution. This is precisely what happened in Iran.

7:37AM PDT on Jun 29, 2014

While I tedn to agree Paul, I dont like seeing journalists go to jail either, there ARE times they willingly decide to be propagandists rather than investigate. WE dont have news in the country anymore. There is very little investigative journalsim anymore. Its like the song “bubble headed bleach blondes tells us about the school bus crash with a gleam in her eye” . They are talking heads reading what someone else wrote for them.

Over where this happened they actually were likely doing their jobs……and the government didnt like it and tossed them in jail. Its jsut as doangerous when the press JOINS the government and becomes only a propaganda outlet for the people in power.


12:43PM PDT on Jun 28, 2014

Some of the most serious problems we face today concern the interpretation of political actions. What a politician, especially a leader, has to do to retain power is often detrimental to a large segment of the population. If they learn of the underhand actions at all it is through the media, including social media. The problem with obtaining such information is that the publisher invariably has an agenda opposed to the politicians' who's actions are revealed and often feels little or no constraint to publish the truth. We are constantly bombarded by propaganda and counter-propaganda thinly disguised as News and find it difficult to establish the facts. I think it is a huge mistake to imprison journalists whether they tell truth or lie because that makes their story more credible, and arouses passionate responses from the rest of the people who support the journalist's view.

6:38PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Good heavens, that unwieldy URL formatting looks terrible. However, I just copied it from my comment and pasted, and it still works.

Apologies again.

6:36PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Furthermore, there is an Amnesty International letter-writing action in connection with this week's sentencing of the Al Jazeera journalists, and the judicial rulings upholding 183 DEATH SENTENCES for political opposition, also this week.

The Egyptian court has recommended the death penalty for OVER A THOUSAND of his supporters since Mohamed Morsi was deposed. Seven have already been killed.

Sorry I couldn't shorten the URL, but please take action at Amnesty here:

http://act.amnestyusa.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1839&ea.campaign.id=29889&Appeal%20Code=W1406EADP1&ea.tracking.id=Country_Egypt~MessagingCategory_CensorshipandFreeSpeech~MessagingCategory_DeathPenalty~MessagingCategory_PrisonersandPeopleatRisk~Region_MiddleEastandNorthAfrica

6:20PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

I don't understand why this article does not link to a petition on this site:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/583/945/591/freeajstaff-release-detained-al-jazeera-journalists/

Please sign.

1:07PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Thanks

11:53AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

More and more we will find this sort of thing happening all around the world as most governments refuse to control their greed, violence and lust for power.

11:49AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

I guess Fox News doesn't air in Egypt. Otherwise, the network's entire staff would be in prison.

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