His Excellency Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
President of Egypt
Arab Republic of Egypt
23 June 2014
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express outrage over the sentencing of Al-Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste.
According to news reports backed by independent sources who have closely followed the trial process - amongst them respected human rights advocates and international diplomats – the verdicts reached today came despite a severe lack of evidence that bore little relation to the serious charges that were levied against the journalists.
Australian journalist Peter Greste and Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who has dual Egyptian/Canadian nationality, were both sentenced to seven years in prison. Their colleague, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, was sentenced to ten years. All three were arrested from their hotel rooms on 29 December 2013 and accused of spreading false news and aiding a banned terrorist organisation.
Your Excellency, we respectfully remind you that the prosecution of journalists for carrying out their profession constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'
The association your government is making between journalism and terrorist activities is particularly alarming. We are extremely concerned that equating a respected international broadcaster with a now-banned terrorist organization thoroughly undermines independent professional journalism in Egypt, and sets a dangerous precedent for the future of news coverage across the region.
Furthermore, we believe this verdict will severely damage the public perception of the role of the media and the status of professional journalists. The message it sends to the Egyptian public, and to the wider international community, is that Egypt is closed off to debate and criticism and that freedom of expression has no place in the new society. We respectfully urge you to ensure the Egyptian and international press alike is free to report independently of government pressure, and that any connection between journalism and terrorist-related activities is refuted entirely.
We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to immediately revoke the sentences against the three Al Jazeera journalists, and we urge you to ensure that in future your government fully observes its international obligations to freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.