100 days detention: Renewed demands to release Al Jazeera staff in Egypt
Al Jazeera channel - Photo courtesy of arabia.msn.com
By NOURHAN MAGDI

CAIRO: Holding up signs that read, “Journalism is not a crime,” BBC staff in various headquarters around the world demanded the release of all detained journalists in Egypt, including Al Jazeera staff, in images shared on social media.

Many media organizations, journalists, family members and supporters renewed their calls on social media Monday for Egyptian authorities to release three Al Jazeera journalists who have been detained in Egyptian prison for 100 days on charges of spreading false news and cooperating with a “terrorist” group.

Australian journalist Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy, and local Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed are among 20 people facing those charges, 12 of whom are being tried in absentia. Eight are in custody.

Photographs tweeted Monday showed BBC staff standing outside of the headquarters in London, many with black tape over their mouths, in a silent protest against a recent crackdown on journalists in Egypt.

A campaign Monday on Twitter spread quickly in support of embattled journalists around the world, with images circulated with the hashtag #freejournalism.

Supporters of another Al Jazeera journalist detained in Egypt, Abdullah Elshamy, also renewed their calls for his release Monday. He has been detained for more than eight months without a trial date, and has been on a hunger strike in prison for 77 days, his brother, Mohamed, wrote in a statement on Facebook.

A joint statement was issued at the BBC’s Safety of Journalists Symposium Monday to highlight violence against journalists around the world.

“We have gathered to protest the increasing attacks on journalism around the world and the damage to free speech that can result from the rise in violence and intimidation against the media,” read the statement.

The statement said there is an absence of credible evidence to justify the imprisonment and prosecution of journalists in Egypt, and called for the release of all journalists around the world being detained for doing their jobs.

“The authorities should clearly announce detailed accusations against the three Al Jazeera journalists as well as clear evidence on their involvement in a ‘terrorist’ group,” Press Syndicate member Khaled El-Balshy told The Cairo Post Monday.

“Any attempt to arrest journalists reflects oppression, and charges of spreading false news should not mean detention,” he added.

During a trial session in February, the three accused journalists denied the charges against them as “absurd,” reported the BBC on Monday.

The Egyptian Press Syndicate also confirmed its stance against the charges.

“We interfered in the case of the Al Jazeera staff many times, demanding the release of the three arrested journalists,” head of the Press Syndicate Diaa Rashwan told The Cairo Post.

The detainment of the three journalists has raised criticism from human rights groups, international media organizations and press freedom advocates who have joined the viral campaign demanding the release of the journalists.

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