Al Jazeera Journalists Held For One Year in Egypt
Yesterday, December 29th, 2014 marked one year since three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested in Egypt. As Al Jazeera explains, “Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were arrested in Cairo on Dec. 29, 2013 under false charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. In June, Greste, an Australian, and Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, received seven-year jail terms, while Mohamed, an Egyptian, was sentenced to 10 years.”
Along with calls for the the immediate release of these individuals, there will also be an appeals hearing on January 1st, 2015, where the Court of Cassation will examine whether there was any problems with the first trial of the journalists.
Many are calling for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to pardon the journalists. And as Al Jazeera explains, “Despite Sisi’s stated reluctance to interfere with the judicial process, statements he made in recent months signaled a possible softening of that stance. In July local media reported that Sisi said he wished that the journalists had been deported rather than jailed, in the first signal that he disagreed with sentences handed down just weeks earlier.” In addition, “In a November interview with France 24, Sisi said that that when the three were arrested, he “did not have the power to take decisions about their situation. If I were president at that time, I would have decided, for the good and security of Egypt, that the journalists would have to be expelled, so [it would] put an end to this issue once and for all.””
It is critical that the Egyptian government release the journalists immediately. It is quite evident that these arrests were politically motivated. El-Sisi came to power through authoritarian means, and continues to act in a way that goes after those who have been seen as a threat to his rule. There must be full protections offered to journalists, and the lack of action on the release of these individuals shows the continued rights abuses by Egyptian officials.