Media Hold Silent Protest Over Egypt's Jailing of Journalists
Hundreds of journalists from the BBC and other news media in the UK and abroad have stood in silence for a one-minute protest exactly 24 hours after three journalists were sentenced in Egypt for charges relating to terrorism.
Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were on Monday sentenced to at least seven years each in prison on terrorism-related charges stemming from an interview with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
On Tuesday morning journalists from the BBC and other London media organisations gathered outside the corporation’s New Broadcasting House headquarters, while staff did the same in Salford, other UK offices and overseas bureaux.
BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney, who has worked in Afghanistan and most recently undercover in North Korea, said the verdicts yesterday were “wrong, wrong, wrong”.
“The Egyptian government has taken a step back into the middle ages,” he told the Press Association.
“They’ve locked up three people whose only crime was doing their job. Journalism is not a crime.”
While Sweeney said he does not think the protest ”will really achieve much”, he said it was an opportunity for journalists to take a stand.
He appealed to members of the public to support the cause.
“I would invite people not to go on holiday to Egypt, there are lots of other sunny places they could go to,” he said.
“And I would invite the Egyptian government to watch some of Peter Greste’s work.
“Then they will see this is not a man who is supportive of extremist Islam.”
The verdicts were met with widespread condemnation, with prime minister David Cameron saying he was “appalled”.
The Foreign Office political director Simon Gass met with the Egyptian ambassador in London, Ashraf El Kholy, yesterday to convey the UK government’s displeasure about the sentencing.
A Foreign Office spokesman said Gass told the ambassador, who had been summoned by foreign secretary William Hague, that the government is “deeply concerned by the verdicts and the procedural shortcomings seen during the trial”.
He added: “There is a provision for freedom of expression in the Egyptian constitution and we asked that the sentences be reviewed in light of that provision.”s