Saturday, August 29, 2015

BREAKING. Egypt sentences Al Jazeera journalists to 3 years in prison for operating without a press licence and not being 'registered' journalists.

In a retrial, an Egyptian judge this morning in Cairo sentenced 3 journalists who worked for Al Jazeera (DStv 406 / StarSat 257) to 3 years in court because they were operating without a press licence and were not "registered" as journalists in Egypt.

Interestingly, the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in South Africa is advocating for the same "rules" for media and journalists in South Africa, wanting journalists to be "regulated" and registered.

At the conclusion of the retrial this morning, journalists Mohamed Fahmy from Canada and Baher Mohamed from Egypt were immediately taken into custody.

Australian journalist Peter Greste who was released and deported at the beginning of February this year, was convicted and sentenced by judge Hassan Farid in absentia in the farcical trial.

In the harsh judgment, judge Hassan Farid said that Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were not journalists because they were operating without a press licence and were never "registered" to practice journalism or to be journalists in Egypt.

Both were sentenced to more time in prison because judge Hassan Farid said they were not journalists.

Al Jazeera said the TV news channel is "sickened" by the "disgusting" conviction of its journalists.

Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera's acting managing director for Al Jazeera English appeared on the channel on Saturday morning, saying he is "shocked, sickened, appalled at today's verdict".

"They were arrested on false charges, they've been convicted without a shred of evidence, they were imprisoned for over a year. And now they're going back to prison. It's disgraceful, it's disgusting. We are shocked," said Giles Trendle.

"The safety and well-being of our staff is of paramount importance," said Giles Trendle.

"The judge said one of the reasons they were there [in prison] is because they were not members of the Egyptian journalists' syndicate. Well, obviously foreign journalists ... the syndicate is for Egyptian journalists," said Giles Trendle.

The three journalists were arrested in December 2013 after a raid on the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison in 2014. International pressure forced a retrial.

This is the second trial in Egypt in the two trials that both had several postponements. The journalists will continue with yet another retrial - the last one allowed.

"Today's verdict defies logic and common sense," says dr. Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera's acting director-general in a statement issued on Saturday.

"Al Jazeera will continue to call for their freedom and an end to the ordeal for Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy and the six Al Jazeera staff who were sentenced in absentia."

"The support shown for Baher MohamedPeter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy has been loud and unified and has come from every corner of the world, from world leaders, journalists, human rights organisations and the general public."

"Al Jazeera calls on everyone to continue to fight for the freedom of speech, for the right of people to be informed and for the right of journalists around the world to be able to do their job," says dr. Mostefa Souag.

"We will not rest until Baher MohamedPeter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy and the six Al Jazeera staff sentenced in absentia are freed and formally and definitely acquitted from the trumped up charges against them."

Mohamed Fahmy has since distances himself from Al Jazeera and blasted the Qatar based 24-hour TV news channel, and accusing Al Jazeera of blatantly placing his life and the lives of his colleagues in grave danger, lying about Al Jazeera's lega status in Egypt.

Mohamed Fahmy who is also suing Al Jazeera for damages in a Candian court, also slammed Al Jazeera for displaying editorial bias in favour of Islamists.

Reporters Without Borders says it "reiterates its call for the acquittal of Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste".

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to terminate the trial by dismissing all charges against the journalists. This judicial sham must end with everyone being acquitted," says Christopher Deloire, secretary-general of  Reporters Without Borders.

With at least 15 journalists detained in connection with their work, Egypt is the world's fourth biggest prison for media personnel (after China, Eritrea and Iran) and is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.