OTTAWA – The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom (CCWPF) condemns the conviction of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, Australian colleague Peter Greste and Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed in connection for their work at Al-Jazeera English.
An Egyptian judge sentenced Mr. Fahmy, Mr. Greste and Mr. Mohamed to three years in prison on Saturday for working without a press license and broadcasting material it claims was harmful to Egypt. The decision was the final judgement in the reporters’ retrial, which began in February and saw many delays along the way.
The decision was denounced by rights groups and media organizations as an attack on press freedom; the CCWPF joins in this denunciation.
The convictions come after a massive global campaign, dubbed #FreeAJStaff, to free Mr. Fahmy and his colleagues. The three journalists were arrested on bogus terrorism charges in December 2013 for their efforts in reporting for Al-Jazeera on civil unrest in Egypt, and spent more than a year in an Egyptian prison on those charges.
Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed were released on bail in February, while Mr. Greste was deported to Australia earlier this year.
Following the verdicts Saturday, Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed were immediately taken back into custody. Mr. Greste was convicted in absentia.
The CCWPF calls on the Egyptian government to deport Mr. Fahmy immediately, and release Mr. Mohamed. It also urges the Canadian government to ensure Mr. Fahmy’s extradition. After more than a year and a half of legal fights in Egypt, he must return home to Canada and a normal life as soon as possible.
The Ottawa-based non-profit group awarded Mr. Fahmy its “press freedom” award at its annual luncheon in May 2014, in recognition of his unwavering commitment to the cause. He was cited by CCWPF as a professional who is ,”in the words of his peers, a passionate journalist and advocate of press freedom who is facing retribution and censorship for exercising his right to free expression.”
On top of the distress of being held in an Egyptian jail, Mr. Fahmy has had to deal with a physical injury during his incarceration. He sustained a shoulder injury days before his arrest, which worsened during his time in solitary confinement without any medical treatment. Mr. Fahmy recently underwent surgery on his shoulder and now has a metal rod in his shoulder and arm. According to media reports, his arm is still in a sling and he still needs further medical treatment. Fahmy now also suffers from Hepatitis C.
About the CCWPF
The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom is a not-for-profit organization run by a volunteer board. Through its activities, vigilance and relations with like-minded organizations, the Committee works to bring to the public’s attention to free expression violations and the need to proactively defend freedom of the press. Every May, the Committee recognizes UNESCO World Press Freedom Day with a luncheon event in Ottawa. This year’s event, to be held on April 30, will feature a keynote address by Kathy Gannon, Associated Press Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For more information or additional comment, please contact:
Shawn McCarthy, CCWPF President