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In Egypt, a Blow Against Press Freedom


FILE - In this Thursday, June 4, 2015 file photo, Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, left, and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohammed listen in a courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a verdict is expected soon in the case of three Al-Jazeera English journalists. MENA reported the verdict was to be issued Saturday in the long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

“The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists - Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste.”

In late December 2013, Egyptian security forces raided a hotel room that housed the make-shift remote studio of three journalists employed by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera news network. The three journalists—Australian Peter Greste, Canadian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed- were arrested, and charged with airing falsified footage intended to damage Egyptian national security; operating without a license; and supporting ousted president Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, a group considered to be a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government.

The three men were tried and found guilty twice. In June of 2014, they were found guilty; two were sentenced to seven years imprisonment, one received a 10-year sentence. Citing lack of evidence, an appellate court ordered a retrial. That process began in January 2015. The three were again found guilty, and on August 29th, were sentenced to three years in prison.

“The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists - Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste,” said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby. “The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment – even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed – is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development.

“We urge the Government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development.”

By finding these three men guilty, the government of Egypt has signaled that journalists can and will be prosecuted and imprisoned for simply doing their job of reporting the news.The Committee To Protect Journalists reports that as of July 1, 2015, at least 18 journalists are in prison for their reporting in Egypt. Even one is too many.

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