UK journalists demand freedom for jailed colleagues in Egypt

Around 65 journalists gathered out side the Egyptian embassy in London yesterday, Wednesday 19 February, demanding that the military drops charges against foreign journalists who are due to go on trial in Cairo today.

Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohammed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohammed have been detained by the Egyptian authorities since 29 December. Their colleague Abdullah Al Shami has been detained since 14 August and is in the third week of a hunger-strike.

Earlier this month the Egyptian authorities published a list of 20 journalists, accusing them of aiding terrorists while working in the country. Of the 20, nine are Al Jazeera staff.

Award-winning correspondent Sue Turton – who worked for Sky News, ITN and Channel 4 prior to joining Al Jazeera – is among those on the list. She joined a demonstration at the Egyptian embassy this morning calling for an end to the trials and charges.

Sue Turton said, “I am astounded that a warrant is out for my arrest because of my reporting in Egypt last year. I didn’t treat the situation there any differently to every other story I’ve reported on in almost 25 years as a TV reporter. I have no allegiance to any political group in Egypt or anywhere else and no desire to promote any one point of view.”

National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Jeremy Corbyn MP, of the NUJ parliamentary group met the Egyptian ambassador Ashraf Elkholy to outline worldwide concern at the silencing of journalists in Egypt.

Michelle Stanistreet said, “We are here to tell the Egyptian ambassador of our outrage at the treatment of journalists in his country. In addition to our four colleagues from Al Jazeera on trial tomorrow, all journalists trying to cover an important story critical to Egypt’s history are being targeted. Six have been killed covering events, others have been injured, imprisoned or had their equipment confiscated. The international community insists that journalists should be free to do their jobs.”

Senior television executives have signed an open letter urging the Egyptian authorities to free those due to go on trialtomorrow. The signatories included: James Hardy, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, his deputy, Fran Unsworth; John Hardie ITN’s chief executive; John Ryley, the head of Sky News; John Pullman, global editor at Reuters; Deborah Turness, president of NBC News and Jon Williams, managing editor of international news at ABC News.

The trial comes at a time when journalists are under increasing attack in Egypt. The Egypt Journalists’ Syndicate issued a condemnation against the interior ministry recently after reporters covering protests in Cairo were assaulted and their equipment seized, while some were even shot at with live ammunition; 19 journalists were arrested in a single day.

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