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One year in jail and still no justice for Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt

Juris and Loise Greste, parents of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste of Al Jazeera address a news conference to discuss their continuing efforts to attain his freedom in Kenya's capital Nairobi, 31 July 2014
Juris and Loise Greste, parents of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste of Al Jazeera address a news conference to discuss their continuing efforts to attain his freedom in Kenya's capital Nairobi, 31 July 2014

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 29 December 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Australian affiliate, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in calling for the immediate release of Australian journalist, Peter Greste, who will today mark 365 days in an Egyptian jail. The IFJ Asia Pacific and MEAA condemn the sentencing of Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohammad Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, simply for doing their job as professional journalists.

On December 29, 2013, Greste and three of his Al Jazeera English-channel colleagues were arrested by agents of Egypt's interior ministry. While one of the four, cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, was released within a month, reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian producer Mohamad Fahmy, and Al Jazeera's second producer Egyptian Baher Mohamed were all subsequently charged with "distorting the country's image abroad" and "fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood," which the government has declared a terrorist organization.

"Peter Greste and his colleagues are imprisoned for their journalism. They have been locked up for 365 days for doing their job. Their work is there for all to see – it is honest, ethical and responsible journalism. Peter Greste and his colleagues are not criminals, they are not terrorists," said MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren.

In September, a joint delegation from the IFJ and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) met Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to discuss the Al Jazeera journalists' ongoing imprisonment and to open a dialogue to new avenues to seek the release of the journalists.

An appeal date has been set for January 1, 2015, when Egypt's court of cassation will examine the appeal of Greste and his colleagues. The court can order a retrial or even reject the appeal.

Press freedom in Egypt in a parlous state as media faces controls and attacks by the courts, military, the political establishment and Islamist groups. Since the overthrow in July 2014 of President Mohammed Morsi, the media has increasingly engaged in increased self-censorship due to the intimidation, arbitrary detention and killing of journalists.

IFJ monitoring reveals eight journalists have been killed, in the country since June 2013 - all were covering anti-Government protests at the time of their death. Of the 220 journalists currently in jail around the world, 12 are imprisoned in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

MEAA's Christopher Warren said the union and the Australian media will "continue to campaign vigorously" for the release of Peter and his colleagues.

"The one-year anniversary of their imprisonment is a stark reminder of the danger journalists all over the world face for simply doing their jobs and why we must be vigilant in defending freedom – the freedom of our communities to be informed. The right of people to know what governments do in their name. The freedom of the media to scrutinise the powerful and hold them to account. The freedom to shine a light on the truth. And the freedom of journalists to do their job without fear, without harassment and without intimidation. Journalism is not a crime. Journalism is not terrorism," he said.

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: "It is an outrage and a tragedy that Peter Greste, Mohammad Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have languished in an Egyptian jail for one year. Of course, they are three of 12 journalists currently locked up in Egypt and this highlights the grim state of press freedom in as it exists today. But the world has shown it will not give up the fight for justice. The campaign will continue loud and strong."

The IFJ joins MEAA and urge the Egyptian Government to immediately release Greste and his two colleagues to ensure that Egypt's remains free and fair.

Jane Worthington said: "Our thoughts right now remain with the Al Jazeera journalists and we offer our ongoing support and commitment to the families of the detained journalists during this long and awful ordeal."

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